The Australian police arrested an Australian hacker for creating and selling the extensively abused Imminent Monitor RAT (remote access trojan).

The police also claimed that the RAT was created by the accused, identified as Jacob Wayne John Keen, around nine years ago at the age of 15. Reportedly, this spyware was downloaded by over 14,500 individuals across 128 countries, out of which 44 were from Australia. The seller collected between $300,000 and $400,000 AUD.

Spyware Capabilities

Imminent Monitor spyware is distributed through email or text messages. It allows users to steal information from their targets and spy on them in different ways, such as recording keystrokes, controlling the device remotely, and enabling/monitoring the webcam or microphone.

So far, the spyware has targeted over 10,000 victims globally. AFP commander for cybercrime operations, Chris Goldsmid, stated that cybercriminals use these tools for stealing personal information from their victims and conduct financially-motivated cybercrime campaigns.

Investigation details

According to the Australian police, the accused sold the spyware tool between 2013 and 2019, and its buyers include child and domestic abusers apart from cybercriminals. Keen sold the RAT for USD 25 (AUD 35) for a single-user lifetime license and offered it at a higher price to a group of hackers. The FBI and security firm Palo Alto Networks pointed out his nefarious activities in 2017.

An investigation was launched, dubbed operation Cepheus, comprising over a dozen law enforcement agencies from Europe. Around 85 search warrants were issued, and authorities seized 434 devices and arrested 13 individuals for using the spyware.

Eventually, the RAT was shut down in 2019 across the world. The same year, Keen’s home was searched, and officials seized his computer in which the code for the RAT was discovered.

The defendant is charged with 6 counts of committing a computer offense through the development/selling of malware and profiting from illegal sales of the tool. The AFP officials explained that owning a RAT isn’t an offense per se but installing it on someone else’s device violates the country’s law.

Keen is facing up to twenty years in prison. Keen’s 42-year-old mother is also facing similar charges and up to twenty years in prison.

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