A Swedish national who pleaded guilty to creating the notorious Blackshades Remote Access Tool (RAT), used worldwide for hijacking computers and capturing personal and business data, has been handed a lengthy prison sentence in the United States.
Alex Yücel, who wrote Blackshades together with Michael "xVisceral" Hogue, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for his part in creating and selling the malware to thousands of users worldwide between 2010 and 2014, earning an estimated US$350,000 (A$454,000) in the process.
Yücel was arrested in Moldova in November 2013 and extradited to the US. He also received a sentence of three years supervised release and had US$200,000 seized along with his computer equipment.
Hogue has also pleaded guilty to creating Blackshades and awaits sentencing.
Other affiliates of the Blackshades gang have received sentences. Brendan Johnston admitted to being an administrator for the Blackshades gang and was sented to one year and a day in prison.
Two Blackshades customers who used the malware to secretely spy on several hundreds of victims using their webcams and to steal their personal files from their computers, Marlen Rappa and Kyle Fedorek, are currently serving one and two-year prison sentences respectively.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Blackshades sold for US$40 per copy and was marketed in underground hacking forums.
Once a RAT customer had tricked victims into installing Blackshades, usually by luring them to click on links leading to the malware, Blackshades could be used to capture keystrokes, operate cameras and microphones, capture files stored on the computer and also fully take over the device and make it participate in denial of service attacks.
Blackshades was also used by repressive regimes to hunt down dissidents.
Digital rights lobby group Electronic Frontier Foundation representative Eva Galperin and Citizen Labs researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire warned in 2012 that Blackshades had been used by the Syrian regime to track activists in the country, with potentially deadly consequences for them.
The FBI estimated more than half a million computers worldwide were infected with Blackshades.