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NEW YORK -- The accused mastermind behind a group called BlackShades pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to distributing malware that U.S. authorities say was used to hack into half a million computers worldwide. Alex Yucel, a 24-year-old Swede, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to engaging in the distribution of malicious software as part of a plea deal. "I aided and abetted others by knowingly transmitting the program BlackShades, which caused damage to a computer without authorization," Yucel said in court. He has agreed to waive his right to appeal if he receives less than 7-1/4 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 22.
The charges against Yucel were unveiled in May 2014 as U.S. and European authorities announced the arrest of about 100 people in connection with BlackShades. BlackShades sold software that gave hackers remote control of other people's computers, allowing them to record keystrokes, steal passwords and gain access to personal files. Yucel was arrested in November 2013 in Moldova and later extradited to the United States. He ran the BlackShades organization under the alias "marjinz," prosecutors said.
Authorities said the organization sold a program called the BlackShades RAT (Remote Access Trojan) to thousands of users in more than 100 countries since 2010. Prosecutors said Yucel employed paid administrators, including a marking director and customer service representatives, to bolster his business, enabling BlackShades to generate sales of more than $350,000 by April 2014.