News Column

More than half million computers worldwide infected with BlackShades malware

May 20, 2014

NEW YORK - The FBI says that more than a half million computers in more than 100 countries were infected by sophisticated malware that lets cyber criminals take over a computer and hijack its webcam.

The sophisticated malware lets cybercriminals remotely hijack a computer, authorities said as charges were announced Monday against nearly 100 people worldwide.

Authorities said 97 people suspected of using or distributing the malicious software called BlackShades have been arrested in 16 countries, including the software's owner, a 24-year-old Swedish man.

"This case is a strong reminder that no one is safe while using the Internet," said Koen Hermans, a Netherlands official in Eurojust, the European Union's criminal investigation coordination unit.

"It should serve as a warning and deterrent to those involved in the manufacture and use of this software."

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called BlackShades a "frightening form of cybercrime," saying a cybercriminal could buy a $40 malicious program whose capabilities were "sophisticated and its invasiveness breathtaking."

"As today's case makes clear, we now live in a world where, for just $40, a cybercriminal halfway across the globe can with just a click of a mouse unleash a RAT (remote administration tool) that can spread a computer plague not only on someone's property, but also on their privacy and most personal spaces," he said.

FBI Agent Leo Taddeo said people suspecting they are BlackShades victims should visit to learn how to check computers.

The criminal operation allegedly involved stealing information, controlling computers, and exploiting people whose computers were hacked. The map indicated victims in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Alice Springs and Perth, and the north and south islands of New Zealand.

Authorities said the BlackShades "RAT" has been sold since 2010 to several thousand users, generating sales of more than $350,000.

Among the victims of the malware was Miss Teen USA 2013, Cassidy Wolf. Authorities say a hacker used Wolf's personal computer webcam to take nude photos of her and threatened to post them online if Wolf didn't send him more revealing photos. She went to police. The hacker was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

BlackShades owner, Alex Yucel, arrested in Moldova last November, is facing extradition to the United States. Michael Hogue, 23, of Maricopa, Arizona - the program's co-creator - had pleaded guilty in New York after his June 2012 arrest and is cooperating, Bharara said.

The malware lets hackers steal personal information, intercept keystrokes and hijack webcams to secretly record computer users. BlackShades also can be used to encrypt and lock computer data files, forcing people to pay a ransom to regain access.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)

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