Five people have been arrested in the UK as part of an international operation targeting users of software designed to remotely take over, control and steal information from computers.
The arrests were led by the National Crime Agency (NCA), and involved officers from a number of police Regional Organised Crime Units. They carried out raids over several days to reduce the threat posed by tools known as Remote Access Trojans (RATs).
The UK arrests were part of international activity, coordinated through Europol - which has resulted in a total of 11 further individuals being arrested in Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy, and Norway.
In addition to arresting people believed to have used RATs, the NCA is warning individuals that any movement into cyber criminality will result in further action.
Criminals who successfully deploy RATs can gain complete control over target computers, wherever they are in the world. They can turn victims’ webcams on and off, access banking or other personal information, download new and potentially illegal content, and instruct the victim’s computer to help commit acts of criminality such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.
No signs of infection
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.
Andy Archibald, Deputy Director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “The illegal use of Remote Access Trojans is a significant cyber crime threat, demanding this kind of strong, coordinated response from international to local UK level. 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.
How to avoid falling victim to RATs
- Be careful what you post online. Criminals can research victims acquire information which can later be used to exploit victims.
- Use strong passwords for your devices and online applications.
- Buy legitimate software from reputable companies, and download free software with caution.
- Back up devices so that important files and documents can be recovered.
Read more on the NCA website.
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If you’ve lost money or information or your computer/smartphone has been taken over by a phishing or malware attack report it to Action Fraud.