IN COORDINATED RAIDS by European law enforcement agencies across 16 countries, 97 alleged cybercrooks have been arrested on suspicion of developing, distributing or using criminal software known as "Blackshades".
17 of the suspects are from the UK, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said, in what is "the first ever UK-wide cybercrime operation" as part of global activity targeting the developers and prolific users of Blackshades, a set of malware tools sold online for under £100.
"A week of arrests, searches and seizures has involved nearly every UK Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), as well as Police Scotland and the Metropolitan Police," the NCA said.
During both "action days" when arrests were made, the European Union law enforcement agency Europol searched 359 houses worldwide.
"Over 1,100 data storage devices suspected of being used in illegal activities were seized, including computers, laptops, mobile telephones, routers, external hard drives and USB memory sticks. Substantial quantities of cash, illegal firearms and drugs were also seized," Europol said in a statement.
Countries that undertook action against creators, sellers and users of the malware included the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, UK, Finland, Austria, Estonia, Denmark, USA, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Italy, Moldova and Switzerland.
"Three coordination meetings were held at Eurojust prior to the action days, attended by most of the involved countries," Europol said. "During the action days, a coordination centre was set up at Eurojust, assisting the different countries by delivering overviews of the state of play in the countries involved, as well as providing judicial assistance, if needed."
All of those arrested in the UK are men, four of whom are from the West Midlands, two from Glasgow and one from London.
Blackshades has sold and distributed malware to thousands of individuals throughout the world. Blackshades' flagship product was the Blackshades RAT, a sophisticated piece of malware that enables its users to remotely and surreptitiously gain complete control over a victim's computer.
A recent case in the Netherlands of Blackshades malware being used for criminal purposes was that of an 18-year-old man who infected at least 2,000 computers, controlling the victims' webcams to take pictures of women and girls. µ
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