22 May 2014

In recent days, the FBI has led a global crackdown on hackers using malware known as Blackshades.

The FBI also provided a list of possible checks and indicators for people wishing to confirm if their computer was affected.

In particular, Blackshades includes a tool component known as a Remote Access Tool (RAT). Once installed on your computer, a RAT gives virtually unrestricted ‘remote’ access to your system, including the ability to access files, capture keystrokes, control the mouse, use the webcam, access all of your accounts and passwords, hold the computer for ransom, and install further software.

The FBI says Blackshades was being traded online for as little as US$40, and could be easily customised to suit particular requirements. It says over 500,000 computers worldwide were affected, including ‘low’ numbers in most major cities in Australia. Arrests have been made in Australia, with people in more than 100 countries affected.

Blackshades can be spread in a range of ways, including as an attachment in a phishing email or as a malicious link via social media.

Avoiding malware

The FBI has published a list of checks you can make to see if your computer is affected by Blackshades.

Like most malware, the advice for avoiding Blackshades is the same. Here is the FBI’s list:

  • Make sure you have updated antivirus software on your computer.
  • Enable automated patches for your operating system and web browsers.
  • Have strong passwords, and do not use the same passwords for everything.
  • Use a pop-up blocker.
  • Only download software—especially free software—from sites you know and trust (malware can also come in downloadable games, file-sharing programs, and customised toolbars).
  • Do not open e-mail attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an e-mail, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close out the e-mail and go to the organisation’s website directly.

More information

The FBI’s New York press release on Blackshades includes more detail on the arrests and how Blackshades works.

Stay Smart Online has discussed scams and attacks involving RATs in the past, including Skype blackmail scams and a phishing campaign (jRAT) targeting government workers.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.


Thank you to those subscribers who have provided feedback to our Alerts and Newsletters. We are very interested in your feedback and where possible take on board your suggestions or requests.


This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.


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