U.S., E.U., Officials Crack Down on Blackshades Cyber-Crime Ring
More than 90 people were arrested after law enforcement agencies in 19 countries carried out raids to break up a cyber-criminal ring that was distributing the Blackshades remote access tool.Law enforcement agents in 19 countries raided hundreds of residences and arrested more than 90 people in a broad crackdown on the creators and users of a remote access tool known as Blackshades, according to coordinated announcements by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union's Europol. While remote access tools can be used legally—for example, by system administrators to remotely manage corporate computers—Blackshades was created to surreptitiously access victims' computers and allow the stealthy control of the systems, according to statements by the law enforcement agencies. Once installed, the remote access tool (RAT) allows its operator to record keystrokes, steal passwords and activate the victim's Webcam, all without the knowledge of the victim. The Blackshades RAT is not infectious but is installed on victims' computers through other means, such as popular exploit kits. While Blackshades could be used for legitimate purposes, prosecutors maintain that it was intended to be—and is exclusively—used for crime. Security firms define the program as malware. "The RAT is inexpensive and simple to use, but its capabilities are sophisticated and its invasiveness breathtaking," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement on May 19, announcing the U.S. law enforcement actions. "As today's case makes clear, we now live in a world where, for just $40, a cyber-criminal halfway across the globe can—with just a click of a mouse—unleash a RAT that can spread a computer plague not only on someone's property, but also on their privacy and most personal spaces."
Two men allegedly created and sold Blackshades. The FBI arrested the first, Michael Hogue, in June 2012. Hogue pled guilty in January 2013 and is currently awaiting sentencing, according to recently unsealed documents. Alex Yucel of Sweden, the alleged owner and operator of the organization that maintained and sold Blackshades, was arrested in Moldova and is awaiting extradition, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.