Police in several European countries including the UK have arrested sixteen people in connection with the use of Remote Access Trojans (RATs) to steal financial data and use webcams for surveillance, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has reported.
In total, six UK-based men were arrested in Leeds, Chatham, Darlington, and Liverpool while Europol-coordinated raids picked up another 11 in Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy, and Norway.
The NCA hasn't made clear what crimes were perpetrated by the RAT campaign, but this is a type of software used to gain remote control over a victim's machine so the possibilities are legion. Theft is the most likely motive but botting a PC to use in DDoS attacks is another angle.
"The illegal use of Remote Access Trojans is a significant cybercrime threat, demanding this kind of strong, coordinated response from international to local UK level," said deputy director of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit, Andy Archibald.
"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."
Webcams were also mentioned, timely given this week's headlines over remote webcam attacks. Several media stories have implied that RATs are specifically used to execute webcam surveillance although these tools have been popular for years for a range of remote-control attacks.
"There is so much the public can do to safeguard their data and to prevent falling victim to the activities of cyber criminals," said East Midlands deputy chief constable, Peter Goodman.
In the case of webcams, a simpler defence is simply to unplug it or (in the case of laptop) cover it with some tape.
Earlier this year, papers from the Edward Snowden haul suggested that UK intelligence agency GCHQ had hacked webcam images from millions of Yahoo users.