We live in an absurd and dystopian future.
Case in point: Russian government hackers are using comments on Britney Spears’ Instagram account to control malware.
Yes, you read that right.
Security researchers at Slovakian security firm ESET have been looking into Turla, a long-running hacking group believed to be linked to the Russian government that has targeted foreign governments, militaries, educational institutions and more.
And they found something pretty unusual, they wrote in a blog post: The malware has been receiving instructions via a seemingly innocuous comment on one of Britney Spears’ Instagram photos. (We heard about the malware via Engadget.)
In a now-deleted comment, user “asmith215” wrote “#2hot make loved to her, uupss #Hot #X.” Just nonsense spam, right? Nope. Hidden inside that message was a a string of characters – 2kdhuHX – that makes up part of a bit.ly link.
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This link will connect it to its command-and-control (C&C) server – giving it instructions on what to do and retrieve stolen data.
This took place in February, and ESET believe it was a test, partly because the link was clicked very few times. The discovery raises some unsettling questions: Where else are dark messages hidden on the internet? How else might hackers be disguised in plain sight?
This isn’t the first time Britney Spears has become inadvertently caught up in the world of hacking. In December 2016 she was the target of a public hoax after hackers gained access to the Twitter accounts of Sony Music and Bob Dylan and claimed she had died.