U.S. charges Chinese military group with cyber espionage
U.S. charges Chinese military group with cyber espionage

The 24-year-old Swedish man and co-creator of the infamous BlackShades remote administration tool (RAT) has plead guilty in a federal Manhattan court on Wednesday to distributing the software.

Alex Yucel's guilty plea is part of a plea deal he arranged with authorities prior to his March 23 trial, according to a release by the FBI.

Previously, he faced two counts of computer hacking, one count of conspiring to commit access device fraud, one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, all to which he previously plead not guilty.

At the time he faced up to 17 years in prison if convicted, however, this recent plea agreement – one was backed out of unexpectedly earlier this month – waives his right to an appeal if his punishment in less than 88 months in prison.

Now scheduled to be sentenced on May 22, Yucel's charge faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Arrested in Maldova in 2013 and later extradited to the U.S., Yucel is the mastermind behind the BlackShades organization, which sold the software to hackers for prices ranging from $40 to $50.

“Through his creation and sale of the BlackShades RAT, Alex Yucel enabled anyone, for just $40, to violate the property and privacy of his victims,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in the release. “With his guilty plea…Yucel will now have to pay for his conduct.”

Once installing the RAT on a victim's computer, the easy to use malicious software enables attackers to perform a slew of functions, including logging keystrokes and taking screenshots.

In May 2014, a collaborative investigation led by the FBI and involving law enforcement agencies in 17 countries resulted in the massive international crime bust of BlackShades users. Raids were conducted at their homes, with authorities seizing any electronic equipment associated with the RAT.

Following the crackdown, 100 individuals around the world have been charged for using or distributing BlackShades.