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'Creepware' Hacker Sting Nets 97 Worldwide

Image: Computer hacking
An illustration dated April 25, 2013 shows a computer screen with source code in Cologne, Germany. Hacking and computer crime has increase worldwide. Oliver Berg / DPA via AP file

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Law enforcement officials around the globe have arrested 97 people for alleged connection with the malicious software Blackshades -- also known as "creepware" because it can allow hackers to spy on users' computer activity and even take over full control of their machines.

The European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), which led the two-day sting, announced the arrests on Monday. During the two-day operation, officials searched 359 houses and seized 1,100 devices -- along with cash, illegal weapons and drugs.

The cross-border effort is a crackdown on Blackshades, which sells a Remote Access Tool (RAT) that lets hackers remotely and secretly overtake victims' computers. The program sells for just $40 online.

Once the malware is installed, the hacker can do pretty much anything with the victim's computer.

Once the malware is installed, the hacker can do pretty much anything with the victim's computer-- access documents and photos, record everything the user types, lock the rightful user out of the computer's files and even activate the webcam.

In some cases, hackers have demanded money in exchange for regained access to the computer -- or tried to extort victims with ill-gotten photos and video.

The FBI concluded the Blackshades RAT was purchased by "at least several thousand users in more than 100 countries and used to infect more than half a million computers worldwide." Blackshades raked in more than $350,000 in sales between September 2010 and April 2014, the FBI said.

One of the victims wasMiss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who was involved in a "sextortion" case last year.

One of the victims was Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who was involved in a "sextortion" case last year. In March a former classmate of Wolf's was sentenced to 18 months in jail after he admitted to taking control of Wolf's and other women's webcams -- and threatened to post nude photos of them online unless they followed his demands.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York released complaints against five individuals on Monday, including alleged Blackshades owner Alex Yücel and alleged Blackshades RAT co-creator Michael Hogue.(Yücel was arrested in Moldova in November, but is still pending extradition.)

To carry out the global investigation, representatives from Eurojust, Europol and the FBI worked with several countries -- the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, UK, Finland, Austria, Estonia, Denmark, Italy, Croatia, USA, Canada, Chile, Switzerland and Moldova.

Dutch officials called the operation "a fine example of cross-border judicial cooperation" and a case that shows "the potential of worldwide joint actions and points the way to future common efforts."

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