Malicious Software Probe Reveals Vast Criminal Network

Authorities have charged developers and users of RAT, a software program that makes spying on an individual's computer easy. Users can capture passwords and spy on people through laptop cameras.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a crackdown on hackers.

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MONTAGNE: Law Enforcement officials announced charges in connection with malicious software that makes it easy for anyone to spy on computer remotely. The case reveals a vast international criminal network that made blackmail and password theft simple and cheap.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: The Blackshades Remote Access Tool or RAT, was advertised on hacker forums for 40 bucks. A copy of RAT can be secretly installed if a user is enticed to click on a link.

Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced charges against users and developers of RAT. He explained that the software can remotely monitor keystrokes and steal passwords.

PREET BHARARA: It even gave users the ability to activate a computer's camera to spy on a person in a victim's own home.

SYDELL: Bharara says some 500,000 computers in more than 100 countries were infected. According to Bharara, three of the key members of the group who made and used the software were among those charged. But, Bharara says with cyber criminals trying to hide by crossing borders, this investigation is a watershed moment.

BHARARA: A number of years, ago I don't think we would have been able to get as many countries on the same page on the same day at the same time in unison, working shoulder to shoulder to get as many bad guys.

SYDELL: Bharara says the investigation into RAT and its users remains open.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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