Five people have been arrested for allegedly using Remote Access Trojan (RAT) software to hijack computers.
The arrests were carried out by the National Crime Agency (NCA) with support from officers in a number of police Regional Organised Crime Units. The arrests took place on 19 and 20 November.
Officers detained a 33-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman from Armley, Leeds, and another 33-year-old man from Leeds.
A 20-year-old man from Chatham, Kent and a 40-year-old from Darlington were also arrested. A sixth person, from Liverpool, was brought in for voluntary questioning on 21 November.
The arrests accompanied similar raids across Europe led by Europol, which saw 15 people picked up in Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy and Norway.
RAT software can let cyber crooks take over a computer without much effort and without the owner’s knowledge.
The criminals can then turn webcams on and off, access banking or other personal information, download illegal content, and use the machine in a Distributed Denial of Service attack.
Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, explained that the arrests underline the organisation’s commitment to tackling all types of cyber crime.
“The illegal use of RATs is a significant cyber crime threat, demanding this kind of strong, coordinated response from an international to a local UK level,” he said.
“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.”
The arrests follow warnings by the Information Commissioner’s Office earlier this week that it had uncovered a Russian website broadcasting webcam footage from UK locations owing to inadequately protected cameras.