Google’s Threat Analysis Group tracks actors involved in disinformation campaigns, government backed hacking, and financially motivated abuse. Since late 2019, our team has disrupted financially motivated phishing campaigns targeting YouTubers with Cookie Theft malware.
The actors behind this campaign, which we attribute to a group of hackers recruited in a Russian-speaking forum, lure their target with fake collaboration opportunities (typically a demo for anti-virus software, VPN, music players, photo editing or online games), hijack their channel, then either sell it to the highest bidder or use it to broadcast cryptocurrency scams.
In collaboration with YouTube, Gmail, Trust & Safety, CyberCrime Investigation Group and Safe Browsing teams, our protections have decreased the volume of related phishing emails on Gmail by 99.6% since May 2021. We blocked 1.6M messages to targets, displayed ~62K Safe Browsing phishing page warnings, blocked 2.4K files, and successfully restored ~4K accounts. With increased detection efforts, we’ve observed attackers shifting away from Gmail to other email providers (mostly email.cz, seznam.cz, post.cz and aol.com). Moreover, to protect our users, we have referred the below activity to the FBI for further investigation.
In this blog, we share examples of the specific tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used to lure victims, as well as some guidance on how users can further protect themselves.