Europol reports that at least one arrest has been made in Estonia as part of an international operation against computer highjacking by Remote Access Trojans (RATs), led by the French police and coordinated through Europol.
The raids were carried out over several days and resulted in the arrest of 15 individuals in several European countries.
Apart from Estonia, people suspected of misusing remote access Trojans were also detained in the UK, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy and Norway.
The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) said that criminals who successfully deploy RATs, can gain complete control over target computers. RATs are often deployed to spy on people via webcams, access banking or other personal information, download new and potentially illegal content, and use the victim’s computer to launch criminal Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.
The NCA warns that computers are typically infected by clicking on a link purporting to be a picture, a video or a legitimate file, but what 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," the NCA said in a prepared statement.
An important aim of the action is to inform the general public about the threats posed by RAT-type malware.
Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Center (EC3), commented on the operation: "Today, an alliance of EU law enforcement agencies joined forces to send a strong signal to the criminals using this toxic RAT malware and, at the same time, engage with the predominantly younger individuals involved, to discourage them from pursuing this criminal path. Crimes committed online are sometimes perceived to be 'less serious' by these young offenders as they cannot physically see the victim or the effects of their crimes. Of course, this is simply not the case and their criminal activities will not be tolerated in cyberspace."
The operation was carried out in cooperation of Europol's European Cybercrime Center (EC3) and various European authorities, within the EMPACT framework.
Investigations and operations into remote access misuse are expected to continue.