The successful operation is the result of an international cybercrime investigation led by the Australian Federal Police and supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The store, Imminent Methods, sold spyware hacker tools to 14,500 people, according to the NCA, and was purchased by cybercriminals in 124 countries.
More than 80 properties across the globe were searched as part of the investigation to capture the individuals behind the nefarious store. Police say they were able to trace the store’s customers and charge them with computer misuse offences.
The shop sold a tool known as Imminent Monitor Remote Access Trojan (IMRAT) for about £19. Once a device was infected, IMRAT granted the hacker full access to the victim’s system, letting them steal data, monitor their activities and even access their webcam.
The NCA’s Phil Larratt said the tools had been used “to commit serious criminality” including “fraud, theft and voyeurism”.
21 search warrants were executed across the UK, in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Milton Keynes, Hull, London, Leeds, Walsall, Lancashire, Nottingham, Surrey, Essex and Somerset at properties of suspected users of IMRAT. The warrants lead to nine arrests and the recovery of more than 100 exhibits, according to the NCA.
Authorities said that worldwide there were more than 85 warrants executed that led to 14 arrests and more than 400 items sized.
Now that the store is offline the cyber-stalking software is no longer functional. With the site now under police control, authorities will now be able to thoroughly investigate the store and anyone who has purchased illegal items from it.
“The authorities now know how many users bought the malware on offer. They will now be working to unmask the 14,500 who were daft enough to buy this malware,” said Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber-security expert from the University of Surrey.
“Organised crime gangs, as well as more petty criminals, are switching their attention to cyber-crime rather than, say, drugs, because it is perceived there will be a significant return on their investment and much lower risk,” he explained.
Chief Constable Andy Cooke, QPM, National Policing Lead for Serious and Organised Crime said: “Cyber Crime is increasingly part of the serious and organised crime landscape and this example of international coordinated law enforcement activity shows the UK’s absolute commitment to tackling and undermining this constantly evolving threat.”
Detective Inspector Andy Milligan from the NWROCU said: “Cyber Crime is not an anonymous victimless crime as some believe. There are real-world consequences to people’s actions in cyber space and the international activity this week has shown how serious the UK treats this sort of criminality.”