It’s a beautiful day on the internet when I can report good news instead of bad. In what appears to be a new and very positive trend in modern law enforcement, several agencies around the world came together in a global sting that bagged nearly 100 cybercriminals selling and using the Remote Access Tool (RAT) “Blackshades”, a very popular hacking tool used to spy on and even extort thousands of victims through their compromised computers. Lest you think this is a new trend in cybercrime, “Ratting” has been around for years, but perhaps its profile was elevated through the unfortunate victimization of Miss Teen USA 2013, Cassidy Wolf, high enough to galvanize authorities to do something other than attempting to squash Ratters one at a time.
What this means for you:
According to analyst estimates, Blackshades was being used to compromise hundreds of thousands of computers world-wide at the time of the sting. It was readily available and cheap, and did not require sophisticated technical skills to use. In the case of Ms. Wolf, the software was installed by a former acquaintance, but typically users are infected and “ratted” through a link on Facebook or via email, often sent by other infected machines. As with any malware incursion, a healthy level of caution and up-to-date antimalware could have prevented the infection, and in the case of Miss Teen USA, a great deal of heartache and trauma. If you are one of the many who refuse to lock their unattended computers with a strong password, consider the victimization of Cassidy Wolf as a cautionary tale and take immediate steps to secure your privacy and safety.