Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Special Agent in Charge Leo Taddeo at Blackshades Press Conference
Good afternoon, my name is Leo Taddeo. I am the special agent in charge of the Cyber and Special Operations Division for the FBI’s New York Office. I am joined by agents from the FBI’s New York Cyber Branch, as well as prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Today, we announce the unsealing of charges that are the result of the FBI’s investigation of the developers, distributors, and users of malicious software (malware) known as the Blackshades Remote Access Tool.
Alex Yucel, as alleged in charging documents, headed the organization that developed and sold the Blackshades remote access tool, or RAT. The Blackshades RAT gave cyber criminals the ability to take over a computer from an unsuspecting victim. Armed with $40, a computer, and access to the Internet, a cyber criminal could use the Blackshades RAT to spy on, steal from, or extort an unsuspecting victim anywhere in the world.
Yucel co-created this tool to give customers a method to obtain unrestricted access to another computer without the owner knowing it. It required no sophisticated hacking experience or expensive equipment. To borrow a phrase from a popular advertising campaign, Blackshades made taking over a computer so easy even a caveman could do it.
The tool allowed cyber criminals to steal passwords and banking credentials; hack into social media accounts; access documents, photos, and other computer files; record all keystrokes; activate webcams; hold a computer for ransom; and use the computer in distributed denial of service [DDoS] attacks.
Yucel did not act alone. 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. As a result of their efforts, the Blackshades RAT was purchased by thousands of people in more than 100 countries. Hundreds of thousands of computers are believed to have been infected.
Combatting cyber crime is a top priority for the FBI. The charges unsealed today should put cyber criminals around the world on notice. If you think you can hide behind your computer screen—think again. Just like in the physical world, the FBI will follow the digital trail to your doorstep. If you think operating in a foreign country puts you out of reach—think again. We have many law enforcement partners around the world who are with us in this fight. If we can’t reach you, they can.
During this past week, more than 40 FBI field offices across the country conducted interviews of people who purchased Blackshades and may have used it to commit cyber crimes. We also passed leads to foreign law enforcement agencies around the world. In the last few days, our law enforcement partners in 17 foreign countries carried out their own law enforcement actions. The combined efforts of the FBI and foreign law enforcement marks the Blackshades takedown as one of the largest global cyber operations in history.
I want to thank our foreign partners in this operation, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Moldova, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.
I’d especially like to thank our partners in Europol and Eurojust for their assistance throughout the course of this investigation.
This case would not have come to fruition without the relentless work by the investigative team which included Special Agents Patrick Hoffman, Mitchell Thompson, Ilhwan Yum, and Andy Dodd; Computer Scientist Thomas Kiernan; Supervisory Special Agent Andrew Cordiner; and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Austin Berglas.
I’d like to thank our prosecution team at the U.S. Attorney’s office, led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Pastore, Sarah Lai, and Paul Monteleoni.
If you believe you may be the victim of the Blackshades RAT, visit FBI.gov for information on how to check your computer for the presence of the Blackshades files and other information on how to protect yourself online.