A 24-year-old Australian national has been charged for his purported role in the creation and sale of spyware for use by child sex offenders and domestic violence perpetrators.
Jacob Wayne John Keen, from Melbourne, is said to have created the remote access trojan (RAT) when he was 15, alongside working as an administrator for the tool from 2013 until it was shutdown in 2019 by the authorities.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) alleged in a press release over the weekend that: “The Frankston man engaged with a network of individuals and sold the spyware, named Imminent Monitor (IM), to more than 14,500 individuals across 128 countries.”
The defendant has been given six counts of committing a computer offense by developing and supplying the malware, as well as profiting off its illegal sale.
A 42 year old woman, who also lives in the same house as the accused (and has been identified by The Guardian as the accused’s mother), has been charged with “dealing with the proceeds of crime.”
The AFP said the investigation, codenamed Cepheus, was set in motion in 2017 when it received information about a “suspicious RAT” from cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks and the US FBI.
The operation, which saw 85 search warrants executed globally in collaboration with many European Law agencies, culminated in the seizure of 434 devices and the arrest of 13 people for using the malware for dodgy purposes.
No less than 201 individuals obtained by the RAT in Australia alone.
Imminent Monitor, distributed via emails and text messages, came with capabilities to quietly log keystrokes as well as record the devices’ webcams and microphones, making it a good tool for users to keep tabs on targets.
The surveillanceware was sold for about AUS$35 on an underground hacking forum. The operator is said to have made between $300,000 and $400,000.
If proven guilty, the individual faces a maximum of 20 years imprisonment.
The AFP commander of cybercrime operation, Chris Goldsmid, said “these types of malware are so nefarious because it can provide an offender virtual access to a victim’s bedroom or home without their knowledge.”
“Unfortunately there are criminals who not only use these tools to steal personal information for financial gain but also for very intrusive and despicable crimes.”