Swedish hacker jailed over mass malware infection

A Swedish hacker will serve more than four years in prison after being found guilty of creating a malware program that went on to infect half a million computers.

However, Alex Yucel’s 57 month sentence is still way below the maximum penalty of 17 years that could have been enforced. It is thought that his confession earlier this year resulted in a more lenient sentence.

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Mr Yucel was arrested in 2013 and extradited to the US after the RAT malware created by his organisation Blackshades was used to cause untold damage. The malicious software was sold to thousands of individuals across more than a hundred countries. Two Blackshades customers and one of the site’s administrators will also serve between one and two years in prison.

The Remote Access Tools, or RAT, malware enabled cyberattackers to access private images and documents and lock data until a ransom fee had been paid. Hackers could also remotely hijack webcams in order to spy on victims.

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara praised the efforts of law enforcement officials in brining Mr Yucel to justice.

“Alex Yucel created, marketed, and sold software that was designed to accomplish just one thing - gain control of a computer, and with it, a victim’s identity and other important information,” he said. “This malware victimized thousands of people across the globe and invaded their lives. But Yucel’s computer hacking days are now over.”

Although the spread of malware is often thought of in terms of the economic damage inflicted on its victims, it can also prove extremely lucrative for the individuals behind the software. The RAT malware generated $350,000 in sales between 2010 and 2014.

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However, the risks involved are also high and Mr Yucel now faces three years' supervised release and a $200,000 fine alongside his prison sentence.