UK & World News

  • 19 May 2014, 19:36

'Ransom Hackers' Raid: Nearly 100 Arrested

A huge operation in 16 countries has led to the arrest of nearly 100 people in connection with malicious software used to gain control of computers.

The software, known as BlackShades RAT, was sold with "ransom notes" which allowed users to extort money.

It could also be used to trigger a "denial of service" cyber-attack to cause websites to crash.

Koen Hermans, an official from the EU criminal investigation co-ordination unit Eurojust, said: "This case is a strong reminder that no one is safe while using the internet.

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

BlackShades allows people to steal personal information, hijack webcams and intercept keystrokes to gain password information.

It also allowed a user to encrypt and lock data files, preventing computer owners from gaining access unless they paid a ransom.

One of the "ransom notes" said: "Warning! Your computer has been hacked and your private files encrypted and can only be decrypted by us." It also included bank account details where the "ransom" could be paid.

The FBI and police in the UK as well as Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada and Chile raided 359 properties and seized cash, firearms, drugs and more than 1,000 data storage devices.

In all, 97 people were arrested.

The FBI passed on the names of people thought to have bought the software after arresting two people who coded it, AFP reported.

French police arrested 26 people thought to have bought the software in raids on 50 properties last week.