Alex Yücel, co-creator of Blackshades RAT, pleads guilty

Well, he reportedly tried to back out of his plea deal less than two weeks ago, but yesterday, Alex Yücel,  the co-creator of the Blackshades Remote Access Tool, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to one count of distribution of malicious software.

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the plea, and said, “Through his creation and sale of the Blackshades RAT, Alex Yücel enabled anyone, for just $40, to violate the property and privacy of his victims.”

According to the allegations in documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at the plea and other court proceedings:

Beginning in at least 2010, the “Blackshades” organization, which Yücel owned and controlled, sold and distributed malware to thousands of cybercriminals throughout the world. The RAT was typically advertised on forums for computer hackers and marketed as a product that conveniently combined the features of several different types of hacking tools. Copies of the Blackshades RAT were available for sale, typically for $40 each, on a website maintained by Blackshades.

Once a computer was infected with the RAT, the user of the RAT had complete control over the computer. The user could, among other things, remotely activate the victim’s web camera. In this way, the user could spy on anyone within view of the victim’s webcam inside the victim’s home or in any other private spaces where the victim’s computer was used. The RAT also contained a “keylogger” feature that allowed users to record each key that victims typed on their computer keyboards. To help users steal a victim’s passwords and other log-in credentials, the RAT also had a “form grabber” feature. The “form grabber” automatically captured log-in information that victims entered into “forms” on their infected computers (e.g., log-in screens or order purchase screens for online accounts).

Yücel co-created the Blackshades RAT with Michael Hogue and operated the Blackshades organization with the help of several employees. The 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.

Yücel, 24, a Swedish national, was arrested in Moldova in November 2013. He was the first defendant ever to be extradited from Moldova to the United States. His guilty plea to distribution of malicious software carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Castel on May 22, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress, and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Michael Hogue, the co-creator of the RAT, pled guilty before Judge Castel in January 2013 and is awaiting sentencing.

Brendan Johnston, an administrator for the Blackshades organization, pled guilty on November 21, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman to conspiracy to commit computer hacking, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Furman on May 27, 2015, at 3:30 p.m.

Marlen Rappa, a customer of Blackshades who purchased the RAT and used it to infect victims’ computers, spy on those victims using their web cameras, and steal personal files from their computers, pled guilty on October 31, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Caproni on March 13, 2015, at 3:00 p.m.

Kyle Fedorek, a customer of Blackshades who purchased the RAT and used it to steal financial and other account information from more than 400 victims, pled guilty on August 19, 2014, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick on February 19, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York

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