Four UK citizens have been arrested in a Europe-wide crackdown on computer hijacking that saw offenders remotely control computers and steal information without the user knowing.
Police reported that 15 people were arrested across seven European countries [Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy, Norway and the UK] for using Remote Access Trojans [Rats] to take control of computers.
Ratting, as the practice is known, can grant access to a user’s webcam and the offender is then able to potentially view anything that is going on in the location that the webcam is situated.
"Victims are typically infected by being convinced to click on a link purporting to be a picture or video, or disguised as a legitimate file, but is instead an installer for the Rat. In many cases, those who unwittingly install such trojans will have no indication that their machine is infected,” read a statement from the National Crime Agency [NCA].
In the UK, two 33-year-old men and a 30-year-old woman from Leeds were arrested in addition to a 20-year-old man from Chatham, Kent and a 19-year-old man from Liverpool had his home searched before being brought in for “voluntary questioning”.
All stand accused of using Rats to spy on a number of targets and the NCA issued a warning to anyone thinking of resorting to the tactic.
"The illegal use of Remote Access Trojans is a significant cybercrime threat, demanding this kind of strong, co-ordinated response from international to local UK level," said Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit. "Suspected users of Rats are continuing to find that, despite having no physical contact or interaction with their victims, they can still be identified, tracked down and arrested by the NCA and its partners."
The Europe-wide investigation also found websites where hackers shared content related to the victims such as photos and videos with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection [CEOP] centre worried there is potential for children to be exploited in this way.