NEW YORK (Reuters) – The accused mastermind behind a group called BlackShades pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to distributing software that US authorities say was used to hack into half a million computers worldwide.
Alex Yucel, a 24-year-old Swede, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to engaging in the distribution of malicious software as part of a plea deal ahead of his March 23 trial.
“I aided and abetted others by knowingly transmitting the program BlackShades, which caused damage to a computer without authorization,” Yucel, dressed in blue jail garb, said in court.
The plea came after Yucel earlier this month apparently backed out of a prior plea deal, without any explanation. He has agreed to waive his right to appeal if he receives less than 7-1/4 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 22.
The charges against Yucel were unveiled in May 2014 as US and European authorities announced the arrest of about 100 people in connection with BlackShades.
BlackShades sold software that gave hackers remote control of other people’s computers, allowing them to record keystrokes, steal passwords and gain access to personal files, according to authorities.
Yucel, who was arrested in November 2013 in Moldova and later extradited to the United States, ran the BlackShades organisation under the alias “marjinz,” prosecutors said.
Authorities said the organisation sold a program called the “BlackShades Remote Access Tool” to thousands of users in more than 100 countries since 2010.