Federal prosecutors announced charges Monday against a group of hackers believed to behind a popular malware program that enabled its users to activate web cameras on and steal files and account information from personal computers.
Known as Blackshades, the organization sold the malware to thousands of people in more than 100 countries since 2010, prosecutors said.
“Blackshades’ flagship product was a sophisticated program known as the Remote Access Tool, or ‘RAT’ for short,” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement announcing the indictments. “The RAT is inexpensive and simple to use, but its capabilities are sophisticated and its invasiveness breathtaking.”
According to the indictment, copies of the Blackshades RAT were available for sale, typically for $40 each, on a website maintained by Blackshades.
The FBI’s New York assistant director-in-charge, George Venizelos, said the malware was especially dangerous because it required no sophisticated hacking experience or expensive equipment.
“Armed with $40 and a computer, an individual could easily get the Blackshades Remote Access Tool and become a perpetrator,” Mr. Venizelos said the statement.
Prosecutors said Alex Yucel of Sweden was the co-creator of the RAT, and owned and operated the Blackshades organization. Mr. Yucel is charged with two counts of computer hacking, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He was arrested in Moldova in November 2013 and is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Brendan Johnston of Thousand Oaks, California, Kyle Fedorek of Stony Point, New York, and Marlen Rappa of Middletown Township, New Jersey, were also named in the indictment.
Michael Hogue, another co-creator of the RAT, was arrested in June 2012 as part of the federal investigation known as “Operation Cardshop.” Mr. Hogue has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.