Alex Yucel, a 24-year-old Swedish national accused of being involved in the creation of the notorious BlackShades RAT, has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.
The suspect entered a not guilty plea on Thursday in a Manhattan federal court, AFP reported. Yucel, also known as “marjinz” and “Victor Soltan,” has been charged (PDF) with conspiracy to commit computer hacking, distribution of malicious software, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Yucel could spend up to 17 years in prison if convicted.
Yucel was arrested in November 2013 in Moldova and extradited to the United States shortly after the recent law enforcement crackdown on BlackShades RAT. The FBI says the man developed the RAT along with US citizen Michael Hogue, who has already pleaded guilty. Yucel is believed to be head of the criminal enterprise.
“Yucel ran his organization like a business—hiring and firing employees, paying salaries, and updating the malicious software in response to customers’ requests. He employed several administrators to facilitate the operation of the organization, including a director of marketing, a website developer, a customer service manager, and a team of customer service representatives,” the FBI said in a statement.
In mid-May, law enforcement authorities in the United States and Europe carried out a major operation against individuals suspected of creating, selling and using BlackShades. About 100 people were arrested, 1,900 command and control domains were seized, and 1,000 electronic devices were confiscated in the operation involving 19 countries.
The BlackShades RAT, which has been sold on cybercrime forums for up to $100, can be used to steal online credentials, hack into social media accounts, log keystrokes, steal files, and even launch DDoS attacks.
While the recent law enforcement operation has dealt a significant blow to the BlackShades criminal market, experts believe it’s unlikely that we’ll see the end of the RAT.
“[BlackShades] has survived multiple arrests over the past two years and had source code leaked to the Internet, which can be modified by hackers or used as building blocks for a new RAT,” Alex Watson, director of security research at Websense, told SecurityWeek in a recent interview.
“Blackshades RAT’s source code has been available on the Internet for over 3 years. As it’s based on the Visual Basic programming language, it’s likely quite easy for moderately skilled hackers to modify for their purposes,” Watson added.
Related: BlackShades RAT Attack Activity Increasing