In July 2016, KrebsOnSecurity published a story identifying a Toronto man as the author of the Orcus RAT, a software product that’s been marketed on underground forums and used in countless malware attacks since its creation in 2015. This week, Canadian authorities criminally charged him with orchestrating an international malware scheme.
The owner of a Swedish company behind a popular remote administration tool (RAT) implicated in thousands of malware attacks shares the same name as a Swedish man who pleaded guilty in 2015 to co-creating the Blackshades RAT, a similar product that was used to infect more than half a million computers with malware, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.
“He built a piece of software. That tool was pirated and abused by hackers. Now the feds want him to pay for the computer crooks’ crimes.”
The above snippet is the subhead of a story published last month by the Daily Beast titled “FBI Arrests Hacker Who Hacked No One.” The subject of that piece — a 26-year-old American named Taylor Huddleston — faces felony hacking charges connected to two computer programs he authored and sold: An anti-piracy product called Net Seal, and a Remote Administration Tool (RAT) called NanoCore that he says was a benign program designed to help users remotely administer their computers.
The author of the Daily Beast story, former black hat hacker and Wired.com editor Kevin Poulsen, argues that Huddelston’s case “raises a novel question: When is a programmer criminally responsible for the actions of his users? Some experts say [the case] could have far reaching implications for developers, particularly those working on new technologies that criminals might adopt in unforeseeable ways.”
But a closer look at the government’s side of the story — as well as public postings left behind by the accused and his alleged accomplices — paints a more complex and nuanced picture that suggests this may not be the case to raise that legal question in a meaningful way.