Is Your Computer Watching You?

Computer hacker forums lit up last week as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and police in 17 countries began knocking on doors, seizing computers and making arrests.

On the popular websites where cyber criminals buy and sell software kits and help each other solve problems, hackers issued warnings about police visits to their homes.

The hackers quickly guessed that a major crackdown was underway on users of the malicious software known as Blackshades.

The FBI and prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office announced the results of that probe on Monday: More than 90 arrests worldwide.

Blackshades has been circulating for years now. It’s a remote access Trojan that gives the attacker a great deal of control over the victim’s machine. It behaves like a ‘worm’ in that it contains self-propagation programming to facilitate its spreading to other machines.

The low price makes it an attractive option for low level cybercriminals or any cybercriminal that simply wants one extra weapon in their arsenal.

The malware sells for as little as $40 and it can be used to hijack computers remotely and turn on computer webcams, access hard drives and capture keystrokes to steal passwords — without victims ever knowing it.

Criminals have used Blackshades to commit everything from extortion to bank fraud, the FBI said.

Last week, watching it all play out were about two dozen FBI cybercrime investigators holed up in the New York FBI’s special operations center, high above lower Manhattan.

Rows of computer screens flickered with updates from police in Germany, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Investigators followed along in real time as hundreds of search warrants were executed and suspects were interviewed.

The sweep, capping a two-year operation, is one of the largest global cybercrime crackdowns ever. It was coordinated so suspects didn’t have time to destroy evidence. Among those arrested, in Moldova, was a Swedish hacker who was a co-creator of Blackshades.

“The charges unsealed today should put cyber criminals around the world on notice stated the chief of the FBI’s cybercrime investigations in New York. “If you think you can hide behind your computer screen — think again. ”

What Can You Do?
If you don’t use your webcam you should simply disable it to avoid this type of problem. My Dad immediately put a piece of masking tape over the built in webcam on his computer… Not very hi-tech but certainly an effective security precaution

Keeping your anti-virus and anti-malware protection working and fully up to date can help protect you from this kind of problem but it’s not fool proof.

Many webcam manufacturers don’t require or even mention that the user should change the default password so even inexperienced hackers already have ½ the battle won when they infect a system.

Parents should also monitor their kids laptops, smart phones, home monitoring cameras and even baby monitors – anything with an internet connected webcam or camera installed. All of these devices are susceptible to hackers and malware.

Here’s an article from Symantec detailing a number of things we should all do for better webcam security.

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