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Blackshades Co-Creator Escapes Jail Term

A US man has been sentenced to five years’ probation for his part in the creation and distribution of the notorious Blackshades remote access trojan (RAT) which may have infected over half a million PCs worldwide.

Michael Hogue – aka ‘xVisceral’ – was sentenced on Friday by a Manhattan district judge, ordered to forfeit $40,000 and perform 500 hours of community service, according to Reuters.

He was actually arrested back in 2012 after a two-year sting operation by the FBI but subsequently agreed to help officers to take out other users and distributors of the RAT.

This led to a May 2014 global swoop by law enforcers which culminated in the arrest of around 100 suspects.  

The major international operation involved police in 18 countries and the FBI claimed to have seized more than 1900 domains used by Blackshades users to control victims’ computers.

Arrested in Moldova was Swede Alex Yucel, co-developer of the software, who it is claimed was the head of the organization – “hiring and firing employees, paying salaries, and updating the malicious software in response to customers’ requests.”

Of the several different types of Blackshades tool made available, the most popular was the RAT, which could be bought for as little as $40.

Although in the beginning it could be bought legally for such tasks as remotely accessing a home PC from elsewhere, it was soon picked up and customized by hackers.

According to the FBI, they used it to: “steal passwords and banking credentials; hack into social media accounts; access documents, photos, and other computer files; record all keystrokes; activate webcams; hold a computer for ransom; and use the computer in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.”

The tool was bought by thousands of users in over 100 countries and used to infect more than half a million computers worldwide, the FBI said. It also  generated sales of over $350,000 between September 2010 and April 2014.

Yucel was sentenced to 54 months back in June last year.

Hogue has escaped a jail term despite being told by judge Kevin Castel that he’d committed a crime of "historic proportions."

"But when he was confronted he did something right," the judge reportedly continued. "He did what he could to make amends."

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