20 May-2014, Matthew Sparkes: Around 97 people have been arrested in a worldwide crackdown on the creators, sellers and users of a piece of malicious commercial software called Blackshades Remote Access Tool (RAT).
The application can remotely seize control of a victim’s computer, access and view their documents, record keystrokes and even activate their webcam to take surreptitious pictures and video. It is also able to encrypt files in order to extract a ransom for their release.
The software was used last year to capture naked photographs of the then 19-year-old Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf.
The “sextortion” case made headlines in the US when it was revealed that the perpetrator, 20-year-old Jared James Abrahams, threatened to post the photos online unless Wolf gave him a nude video. Abrahams was later sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Blackshades RAT is a commercial product costing less than £100 which was marketed as a tool to test network security. However, it is widely used by hackers and was even said by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to have been used against Syrian activists by the government in 2012.
European law enforcement agency Europol estimates that it has been sold to “thousands of individuals throughout the world” by a company called Blackshades.
During a two-day operation this week, international police forces conducted 359 house searches. Europol puts the number of arrests at “more than 80”, but the European Union’s Eurojust said in a statement that 97 people had been taken into custody.
It is believed that 17 arrests have been made in the UK, including: a man in Derbyshire; a man in Birmingham; a man in Halesowen; a man in Wolverhampton; a man in Newcastle-under-Lyme; a man in Brixham; a man in Andover in Hampshire; a man in Ashford in Kent; two men in Liverpool; one man in Manchester; one man in Warrington; one man in Woodford Green in Essex; one man in St Andrews; one man in Glasgow; one man in London and one man in Leeds.
Investigators from the National Crime Agency believe that around 200,000 usernames and passwords for various online services may have been extracted by Blackshades RAT users in the UK.
Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Criminals throughout the UK and across the world are finding out that committing crimes remotely offers no protection from arrest. The unique scale of this cyber operation shows what can happen when law enforcement agencies at local, national and international level work together to tackle the perpetrators and help keep people safe.
“Cyber crime is one of the most significant criminal threats to the UK. The NCA is helping to build the capacity of its partners across the country and coordinating the UK’s collective efforts as part of the response. The commitment of our police partners in the cyber arena has been clearly demonstrated by the work culminating in this week’s dramatic activity.”
(Input source: Telegraph.co.uk)