NEW YORK (AP) — The Swedish owner of a business that sold sophisticated malware that prosecutors say corrupted more than half a million computers in 100 countries was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly five years in prison.
U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel ordered 25-year-old Alex Yucel to serve four years and nine months in prison. Yucel, the owner of the malicious software Blackshades, pleaded guilty in February to computer hacking. He also was ordered to forfeit $200,000.
Prosecutors said Yucel sold and distributed malware to cybercriminals worldwide from 2010 to April 2014, generating sales of more than $350,000.
Yucel, arrested in Moldova in November 2013, became the first defendant to be extradited from that country to the United States.
Prosecutors said buyers of the Blackshades malware sometimes used it to hijack computers' webcams and spy on their users. At other times, the buyers stole personal files and information, intercepted keystrokes and encrypted and locked computer data files, forcing computer owners to pay ransoms to regain access, the government said.
Prosecutors said several thousand people had paid $40 each to buy the Blackshades Remote Access Toll, or RAT, and used it to break into the computers.
An investigation resulted in the arrests of nearly 100 people in 13 European countries, the United States, Canada and Chile. The European countries were identified as Austria, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Moldova, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
"This malware victimized thousands of people across the globe and invaded their lives," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "But Yucel's computer hacking days are now over."
Earlier this year, a former Blackshades administrator and a customer each were sentenced to a year and a day in prison after pleading guilty. Another customer who used the software to steal financial and other account information pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison.
A co-creator of the RAT program is awaiting sentencing.