International crackdown vs. Blackshades malware nabs 90 suspects

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

New York, NY, United States (4E) – The FBI and police in 19 countries arrested more than 90 people using the spying malware Blackshades.

An FBI-coordinated international crackdown on the spying and hacking malware Blackshades led to the arrest of more than 90 suspected users as well as the developers and sellers of the software in 18 countries.

The FBI New York Field Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced Monday the operation that saw the raid of 359 homes around the country and in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Moldova, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the U.K.

Seized during the coordinated raids were more than 1,100 data storage devices, computers, laptops, mobile telephones, routers, external hard drives, and USB memory sticks.

The Eurojust in The Hague and the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol coordinated the two-day raids in European countries.

Arrested in Moldova was Swedish national Alex Yucel, who co-developed the Blackshades together with U.S. citizen Michael Hogue, who was arrested in 2012. The FBI said another U.S. citizen who helped market and sell the malware and two Blackshades users who bought the malware and then unleashed it upon unsuspecting computer users, surreptitiously installing it on their hardware were also charged and arrested.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York told reporters that Hogue pleaded guilty last year and now was cooperating with federal authorities.

The software was sold and distributed to thousands of people in more than 100 countries infecting more than half a million computers worldwide. With the Blackshades Remote Access Tool (RAT) installed on victims’ computers, criminals can steal passwords and banking credentials; hack into social media accounts; access documents, photos, and other computer files; record all keystrokes; activate webcams; hold a computer for ransom; and use the computer in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

The FBI said several different types of Blackshades malware products were available for purchase by other cyber criminals through a website. The popular Blackshades RAT could be bought for as little as $40.

One of the victims of Blackshades was Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf. A former classmate she knew, Jared Abrahams, had installed the malware on her laptop. Abrahams then took nude photos of Wolf without her knowing and tried to extort from her with the threat of spreading the nude photos on the Internet. Abrahams, a 20-year-old computer science student, was arrested in March, pleaded guilty to extortion and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

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