Two people who authored the malware were taken into custody, along with scores of others who bought and used it, subjecting hundreds of thousands of people around the world to a cyber crime of nightmarish proportions.
The word “malware” is a conglomeration of the words malicious and software, and when it comes to Blackshades, Agent John Caruthers with the San Diego FBI Cyber Crime Unit said it doesn’t get any more malicious. “It will allow the user of the tool, the perpetrator, to gain complete and total access to the victim’s computer,” Caruthers said.
That’s what 20-year old Jared James Abrahams of Temecula did to former Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf when the two attended high school together. Abrahams was able to surreptitiously gain access to Wolf’s computer and install Blackshades. He then watched her on her computer’s webcam for more than a year before sending Wolf a threatening message complete with two nude pictures of her. He said if she didn’t do what he said, he’d share those pictures and others with the world.
As terrible as that was, Agent Caruthers said today’s users of Blackshades have gone way beyond extortion. “With the keystroke loggers, basically if you think about it, everything that you’re typing at your keyboard is being recorded into a log at which point the subject of perpetrator will have access to, so you’re looking at all passwords, user names, bank account numbers,” Caruthers said.
So, how do you know if you have been or are a victim of Blackshades? It’s not easy, but Agent Caruthers said if your computer suddenly starts slowing down, even a little bit, you might want to have an expert look it over. And if someone has Blackshades on your computer? “Highly recommended that you wipe your hard drive and re-load your operating system. Now, of course, you want to back up your vital data first,” Caruthers said. And he said to make sure your anti-virus software is up to date.
San Diego 6 asked Agent Caruthers if cyber crime has gotten so bad that his cyber crime unit is getting overwhelmed. He told us that there is never a shortage of work to do. But he also said that cooperation between federal, state and local authorities is better than ever.