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Current issue : #70 | Release date : 2021-10-05 | Editor : The Phrack Staff
IntroductionThe Phrack Staff
Phrack Prophile on xerubThe Phrack Staff
Attacking JavaScript Engines: A case study of JavaScriptCore and CVE-2016-4622saelo
Cyber Grand ShellphishTeam Shellphish
VM escape - QEMU Case StudyMehdi Talbi & Paul Fariello
.NET Instrumentation via MSIL bytecode injectionAntonio 's4tan' Parata
Twenty years of Escaping the Java SandboxIeu Eauvidoum and disk noise
Viewer Discretion Advised: (De)coding an iOS Kernel VulnerabilityAdam Donenfeld
Exploiting Logic Bugs in JavaScript JIT Enginessaelo
Hypervisor Necromancy; Reanimating Kernel ProtectorsAris Thallas
Tale of two hypervisor bugs - Escaping from FreeBSD bhyveReno Robert
The Bear in the Arenaxerub
Exploiting a Format String Bug in Solaris CDEMarco Ivaldi
Segfault.net eulogyskyper
YouTube Security SceneLiveOverflow
Title : YouTube Security Scene
Author : LiveOverflow
                            ==Phrack Inc.==

               Volume 0x10, Issue 0x46, Phile #0x0f of 0x0f

|=---------------------=[ YouTube Security Scene ]=----------------------=|
|=--------------------------=[ LiveOverflow ]=---------------------------=|

--[ Table of Contents

0. About the Author
1. Preamble
2. Before 2014
3. My Start in 2015
4. Today's Scene
5. Final Words
6. References

--[ 0. About the Author

To briefly introduce myself, I'm LiveOverflow and I make videos about
various IT security topics. Here are a few:

+ How SUDO on Linux was HACKED! // CVE-2021-3156
+ XSS on Google Search - Sanitizing HTML in The Client?
+ Identify Bootloader main() and find Button Press Handler

--[ 1. Preamble

  From BBS and text files, over IRC and books, to the modern internet with
forums and blogs, hackers exchanged information primarily in text form.
This of course meant, most older hackers prefer text, which makes it
difficult to establish new kinds of media.

  When I started producing videos in 2015 I often got the feedback that
text is superior, nobody will watch videos and I should instead write
articles. So when I was asked to write about the "YouTube Hacking Scene"
for Phrack I felt like video production finally reached some level of

  While this article is titled "YouTube Hacking Scene" I also want to
include streamers on Twitch and other platforms - who knows how long the
product YouTube will survive, and I'm sure Phrack will exist long after.

  Given that my personal experience is biased and the history is difficult
to research, this article is certainly not objective. So we will go with
the French saying "preach the falsehood to know the truth". So if you know
it better, please reach out.

--[ 2. Before 2014

  Digging up information about hacking videos from the early 2000s is
difficult, but it's clear that it was not very popular. Personally I 
remember "Lenas Reversing for Newbies"[0] video series from 2006 very
well, but it wasn't distributed via YouTube. It is an incredibly detailed
and hands-on walkthrough of Windows reverse engineering and cracking with
OllyDbg. I have seen it getting recommended a lot over years, indicating
that there is a craving for the visual teaching approach. 

  One of the earliest hacking show attempts seems to be "the broken" by
Kevin Rose from 2003[1]. Then in 2005 Darren Kitchen started the 
Hak5 show[2] and it deserves a mention, as it is probably the longest
running hacking video production. YouTube already existed when it started,
but it wasn't popular just yet, so the distribution heavily relied on
torrents. Notable might also be IronGeek, who started uploading conference
videos on YouTube in 2007. His trip to Notacon 2007 might be the first ever
"Hacking Vlog"[3]. But all of these video projects were mostly just
scratching the surface of hacking. Very few videos were actually digging
into the technical details.

  In 2007 the project SecurityTube started out of India by vivekramac.
Probably inspired by YouTube it was meant as a place for everybody to
upload and share hacking video content, but vivekramac himself was
responsible for creating tons of videos. For many years it seems to have
been the best source for free video courses. But in 2011 the site slowly
transitioned into the new paid courses platform Pentester Academy.
Fun fact, when I started making videos in 2015 I obviously came across
SecurityTube and I tried to submit my videos there, but they were never
accepted. The platform already felt abandoned, and the content was kinda
outdated and not the depth I was looking for anyway. Nonetheless a very
important part of video creator history.

  Over the years I have been collecting YouTube channels with more or less
technical security content. And to create the chart below (Fig. 1),
I looked at the year of their first relevant upload. Also most of those
channels only have a handful of videos and were abandoned shortly after.
But in hindsight I even noticed there were a few very early attempts at
making more technical video walkthroughs such as lordparody (2009)[4].
Looking at the data there appears to have been a small surge after 2010,
but I think that 2015 was where the current hacker creator scene really
started growing.

        2005: *
        2007: **
        2008: *
        2009: *****
        2010: ****
        2011: *******
        2012: ************
        2013: *********
        2014: ******
        2015: ***************
        2016: **************************
        2017: ****************************
        2018: *********************
        2019: ************
        2020: *********************

            Fig 1. Bar chart showing the numbers of 
                   new hacking YouTube creators by year

--[ 3. My Start in 2015

  Around 2014 I started to hit a wall in my own learning progress. There
were tons of (written) tutorials about web security, WiFi hacking,
Metasploit and buffer overflows, but the material mostly covered basics.
To actually learn more advanced topics I had to play wargames[6] and CTFs.
I remember fondly struggling for months playing w3challs or
io.smashthestack to improve very very slowly - I was a classic annoying
noob, even getting banned by bla from IRC ;)

  I believe it shouldn't have been this difficult to progress. In the
traditional academic science community you rely on papers, to build upon
prior research. And while we have equivalent resources, see for example
Phrack, we are missing the educational institutions like universities to
pass on this knowledge more effectively. So in the past, new people had to
walk a very stony path to catch up with the state-of-the-art. After I
finally "understood" ret2libc and ROP, I felt like that this stuff is
actually easy, but the existing material is just bad at explaining it.

  Then in late 2014, early 2015, two events happened that would have a big
impact on me. The first event was the growing community of programmers on
reddit called /r/WatchPeopleCode[7] - a subreddit about live streaming
programming. While it is not about security, everybody knows that
programming skills are crucial if you do any form of more in-depth
hacking. The second event was geohot livestreaming himself solving pwnable
challenges from overthewire.org[8].

  What both of these events have in common is that it's the first time for
me looking over the shoulder of a professional. I realized that all the
talks, blog posts and articles only cover the results, and rarely the
actual process. And because I was not lucky enough to have people around
me to learn from in person, watching over the shoulder of an experienced
developer, or geohot, was eye opening.

  To see how geohot was using the terminal, writing exploit scripts and
navigating IDA Pro was incredibly insightful. But more importantly, it
also exposed the fails and mistakes followed by the process of
troubleshooting and fixing the bugs. And this pushed me through the wall I
was hitting in my own education.

  I was craving more. Where can I find more streams or videos where people
are hacking? Unfortunately, when searching on YouTube, the only videos I
could find were either Metasploit tutorials or how to use aircrack-ng to
hack a WiFi. And these topics were very boring to me as I was more
interested in the process of finding these kinds of flaws, rather than
just using what others found. 

  Of course I was very far away from geohot's skills, I did understand ROP
and I thought I could create the "over the shoulder" experience for the
people coming after me. Which led me to start livestreaming pwnable
challenges[9] from exploit-exercises.com (today exploit.education), and
cover other CTFs. However I quickly noticed that I was terrible at
streaming and soon transitioned into making scripted videos with a focus
on visual explanations[10]. Another realization I had was, in fact, I did
not understand ROP and other topics properly. So having the aspiration to
create better tutorials, it forced me to dig deeper, which meant this
project benefited my own education too.

  Of course this is me talking from my own perspective and I don't want to
make it sound like I was the only one. I simply wanted to provide insight
on what motivations can lead people to create videos. So at this point
I would like to mention a few other folks who were making videos about
more "advanced" topics around that time. Gynvael from the Dragon Sector
CTF team[11], MurmusCTF[12], ipp[13], psifertex[14], Zeta Two[15] and 
probably many more I unfortunately never came across.

  Making good videos is very time consuming, especially once it's more 
than "just" a screen recording or livestream. So very few creators are
able to do it over a longer period of time and I believe John Hammond[16]
and I have the longest and consistently running release schedule.

--[ 4. Today's Scene

  As has been the case with any area of hacking, commercialization also
creeps into this scene. I'm not immune to this either, as the time
investment is massive and has to be justified somehow. This unfortunately
leads to videos that are sometimes more motivated by exposure or products,
rather than the pure sharing of knowledge; and it's difficult to find a
balance between those opposing forces. It also led to the prior generation
of free video content (SecurityTube, Cybrary, ...) to put their content
behind paywalls.

  But there is one amazing positive commercial development that I want to
highlight. In the past years companies like Google have sponsored very
technical videos[17] to share insights into vulnerabilities of their own
products. Who would have thought this could ever happen, when this
community used to be scared to get sued for anything.

  There are also new problems that come with Google/YouTube and the other
large social media platforms. YouTube for example has a policy against
certain kinds of hacking videos[18], which lead to the take down of several
videos and even entire channels. However it should also be noted 99% of the
time it was a clear mistake and the decisions got reversed. 

     "Hacking: Demonstrating how to use computers or information
      technology with the intent to steal credentials, compromise
      personal data or cause serious harm to others such as (but 
        not limited to) hacking into social media accounts."
        - YouTube's harmful or dangerous content policies

  Can hacking videos be ethical or unethical? It's a difficult topic and
one that I clash a lot on with other creators. I do believe that there is
a way to make the "right" kind of tutorials - and so far I haven't had any
issues with YouTube ;)

  For example, I understand that Google does not want a step-by-step video
guide for script kiddies to setup a shitty phishing page, when phishing is
the second most common source of compromised Google accounts[19]. And to
me that is not censorship, because the underlying skill is very basic web
development. So to me a phishing tutorial is kinda deceitful and
unnecessarily hiding the real "hacking" skill - web development. But I
know many of my peers disagree here.

  Then there is the evolution of "hacker influencer". It was important to
me at the start to be faceless anonymous. But over the years my opinion
has slightly changed. I often think back to the time when I was sitting
alone in my room trying to understand an article, and wished I had the
videos I make today. So for me it's important to use social media and
their algorithmic feeds to maximize exposure; hoping to reach that kid who
wants to break through the same wall I was hitting. Nowadays I believe
that my desire to have this information easily discoverable, outweighs
restricting educational resources to obscure (or underground) places.

  In 2019 TheCyberMentor joined the scene with live streaming basic
pentesting lessons for free on Twitch[20]. It kinda felt like OSCP
material, just in video form and free. There were earlier attempts at
creating free pentesting courses, such as SecurityTube or Cybrary, and
maybe others as well. But TheCyberMentor is undoubtedly the most 
successful one, reaching several millions of views. This hasn't lasted
long though, since building up the initial audience, he transitioned away
into paid courses too.

  There is also some criticism regarding original content vs. taking
existing (written) tutorials and turning them into videos. Certainly there
is added value in improved presentation. But there is also the ethical
question about highlighting the sources. This especially affects newcomers
where sometimes it's obvious that they follow a typical outline from other
material, without referencing it.

  In the past years, there has also been an interesting development about
topics covered by the video creator scene. Because it has been completely
dominated by "bug bounties". As much as I love seeing an influx of
motivated young people, it feels like this is our community's version of
the "get rich quick" scam. It leads to a huge demand for paid courses
and guides that directly or indirectly promise you to make you a
successful bug hunter. Currently it's very rare to see content beyond bug
bounties and I wish there was more diversity.

  Sometimes I also think about how hacking communities organize, and how
creators changed this. In the past the communities were usually divided by
topics of interest, and now the communities form around personalities.
Sometimes this makes me a bit uncomfortable, but this also resulted in a
massive increase in exposure to the hacking world (it benefits the creator
when the fan base grows).

  It's always difficult to see cultural change, when it evolves away from
what we grew up with. But thinking back to my teenage years, I wish I
could have been able to find places like that more easily, instead of
having to wait until my 20s to accidentally stumble into it.

  Besides creating videos, there is also a growing scene live streaming on
Twitch. Most of them work on challenges from HackTheBox or TryHackMe, which
are platforms with commercial interest. This means the streamers provide
collectively free advertising worth millions for those platforms. On one
hand it's amazing to see so much content, but it's sad that less community
oriented wargames/CTFs are shown. And the variety of the topics covered is
very low as well.

  The style (screen recordings vs. person talking vs. heavy editing), and
the skill levels of creators vary a lot. And I don't mind, as variety
benefits us all. I'm happy as long as more people share more of their work
in video form. I even would like to see more beginners documenting their
journey. But deep down my heart beats for the senior professionals, like
geohot at the time, who let us look over their shoulder.

  And there are some great channels today, such as hardware researcher
stacksmashing[21], gamozo who develops entire new operating systems just
for fuzzing[22] (absolutely insane) or the Flashback Team diving into
their Pwn2Own winning router hack[23]; those kinds of channels make me

  The popularity of hacking videos, and the evolution of a whole creator
scene, was only possible due to the growth of social media platforms.
Their algorithms helped us to get our videos in front of people who didn't
know they were looking for them. As the internet changes fast, social
media platforms change too, And right now TikTok seems to be an
interesting platform to reach new audiences, but the short format does not
allow to cover in-depth topics. MalwareTech[24] is leading the charge there
with millions of views.

--[ 4. Final Words

  Unfortunately there are so many creators today that I cannot include
everyone. But please know that this article is dedicated to all of you. 

  The following people have helped me with this article, by sharing their
experience or fact checking information (alphabetical order):

BlindHacker, CryptoCat, gamozo, Gynvael, hacksplained, insiderphd, ipp,
John Hammond, justinsteven, Murmurs, psifertex, snubs, stacksmashing,
superhero1, TheColonial, Zeta Two

  Shoutout to the polish and indian video creators. I do not understand
a single word, but you all seem very active and dedicated. Special shoutout
to geohot, because without his CTF live streams I would not be here. And
shoutout to Gynvael for being the first person I really cared about
acknowledging my work.

     "And don't forget to like, comment and subscribe."

--[ 5. References

 [0] Lenas Reversing for Newbies (2006) https://web.archive.org/web/
 [1] thebroken by Kevin Rose https://archive.org/details/thebroken_xvid 
 [2] Hak5 - Episode #1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUEXCCWMfXg 
 [3] Notacon 2007 Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXSZ4PRLUDU
 [4] CSAW CTF challenge 2.exe, 3.exe and 4.exe flag retrieval
 [5] Beginner Challenge #1... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdqJ8NEcJUM
 [6] Phrack issue #69 - International scenes
 [7] https://reddit.com/r/WatchPeopleCode
 [8] livectf REDEMPTION by geohot 7/27/2014 
 [9] Let's Hack Livestream - exploit-exercises.com (2015)
[10] The Heap: dlmalloc unlink() exploit - bin 0x18 
[11] Hacking Livestream #1: ReRe and EZPZP 
[12] Life of an Exploit: Fuzzing PDFCrack with AFL for 0days 
[13] HackTheBox - Popcorn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMGsnPSm8iw
[14] Live CTF v2: ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7uXE_lEzxI  
[15] SMT in reverse engineering, for dummies https://youtu.be/b92CW-NZ3l0 
[16] GoogleCTF - XSS "Pasteurize" https://youtu.be/voO6wu_58Ew
[17] Hacking into Google's Network for $133337 https://youtu.be/g-JgA1hvJzA
[18] https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801964?hl=en 
[19] Data breaches, phishing, or malware? Understanding the risks of
     stolen credentials https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3133956.3134067 
[20] Zero to Hero Pentesting
[21] How the Apple AirTags were hacked https://youtu.be/_E0PWQvW-14 
[22] FuzzOS: Day 1, starting the OS https://youtu.be/2YAgDJTs9So 
[23] How We Hacked a TP-Link Router and Took Home $55,000 in Pwn2Own
[24] https://www.tiktok.com/@malwaretech 

|=[ EOF ]=---------------------------------------------------------------=|
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