THREE people have been arrested in Leeds as part of an international operation to combat computer hackers.
Another 12 suspects were also arrested in Kent, Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy and Norway in a series of cross-border raids, the National Crime Agency said.
The operation targeted suspected users of tools known as Remote Access Trojans (RATs), which allow cyber-criminals to gain control over computers, including being able to turn victims’ webcams on and off and access banking or other personal information.
Three men were arrested yesterday in Leeds, aged 33, 30 and 33, while a fourth man was detained in Chatham, in Kent, the NCA said. A search warrant was used on a 19-year-old man, from Liverpool, who was brought in for voluntary questioning.
The Leeds arrests included a 33-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman in Armley on 20 November, and a 33-year-old man in the city centre on the same day.
Police said criminals who successfully deploy RATs could gain complete control over target computers, anywhere in the world.
A National Crime Agency spokesman said: “They can turn victims’ webcams on and off, access banking or other personal information, download new and potentially illegal content, and instruct the victim’s computer to help commit acts of criminality such as Distributed Denial of Service attacks.
“Victims are typically infected by being convinced to click on a link purporting to be a picture or video, or disguised as a legitimate file, but 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.”
Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “The illegal use of Remote Access Trojans is a significant cyber crime threat, demanding this kind of strong, coordinated response from international to local UK level.
“Suspected users of RATs are continuing to find that, despite having no physical contact or interaction with their victims, they can still be identified, tracked down and arrested by the NCA and its partners.”
East Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman said: “Cyber criminals are using very sophisticated technology to breach online security systems and to conceal their digital tracks. However, the police forces in the UK and overseas have the expertise to identify and disrupt those who are determined to access computers in order to steal data or to commit serious offences, wherever they are in the world.”
Police advise PC users to avoid clicking on unknown links, or files sent from unidentified or suspicious sources, and to keep security software up to date.