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What just happened? An Australian man was arrested for allegedly creating and distributing a hacking tool to thousands of cyber criminals worldwide. The 24-year-old hacker is charged with creating and selling a remote access trojan designed to steal personal information and spy on unsuspecting targets. The virus creator made over $300,000 selling the tool, most of which appears to have been used on take-out and delivery items since age 15.
Jacob Wayne John Keen, 24, was arrested for allegedly selling a trojan virus named Imminent Monitor to cyber criminals, domestic violence perpetrators, among others from as many as 128 different countries. The tool allowed users to target unsuspecting victims to steal their personal data, track information entered into documents, and spy on them using the target's webcams and microphones.
The arrest was made following a global sting operation that was set in motion in 2017. The worldwide effort, named Operation Cephus, was started after the Australian Federal Police was provided with suspicious information from the FBI and Palo Alto Networks.
Keen allegedly created and began distributing the tool for $35 per user at age 15, while living in his mother's rental unit. Proceeds from the tool totaled between $300,000 and $400,000 until it was finally shut down in 2019. The shutdown followed the execution of several AFP-led search warrants that seized hardware and assets found to contain evidence pointing to the RAT's development. Keen's recent arrest was based on additional evidence provided to AFP from participating law enforcement agencies around the world.
According to AFP's reports, the tool was used to spy on tens of thousands of victims globally, and at least 200 of the tool's buyers came directly from Australia. A high number of those Australian-based suspects were also discovered to have been involved in previous domestic violence calls, a correlation that sheds some light on what kind of criminals leveraged the nefarious tool. Investigations into other actors that may have used the tool are still ongoing.
Evidence analyzed by authorities revealed that most of the proceeds from the hacking tool were used to buy takeaway food over the course of Keen's 9+ year involvement. He was met with six charges earlier this month and is scheduled to appear in court sometime in August. It also appears that Keen's mother, 42, may have been aware of and benefitted from the criminal activities. She was also charged with dealing in and benefitting from sales of the invasive tool.
Image credit: Taton Moïse