The U.S. Justice Department unsealed 16-count indictment charges on Wednesday against a computer programmer from Ohio who is accused of creating and installing spyware on thousands of computers for more than 13 years.
According to the indictment, 28-year-old Phillip R. Durachinsky is the alleged author of FruitFly malware that was found targeting Apple Mac users earlier last year worldwide, primarily in the United States.
Interestingly, Durachinsky was just 14 years old when he programmed the first version of the FruitFly malware, and this full-fledged backdoor trojan went largely undetected for several years, despite using unsophisticated and antiquated code.
The malware was initially discovered in January 2017 by Malwarebytes and then Patrick Wardle, an ex-NSA hacker, found around 400 Mac computers infected with the newer strain of FruitFly. However, Wardle believed the number of infected Macs would likely be much higher.
The malware is capable of advanced surveillance on macOS devices with the ability to remotely take control of webcams, microphones, screen, mouse, and keyboards, as well as install additional malicious software.
Since the source code of Fruitfly also includes Linux shell commands, the researchers believe the malware would work just fine on Linux operating system.
From 2003 to January 2017, Durachinsky used spyware, which was later named FruitFly, to gain access to thousands of computers belonging to individuals, companies, schools, a police department, and a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Durachinsky allegedly used the malware to steal the personal data of victims, including their tax records, banking records, medical records, login credentials, photographs, Internet searches, and potentially embarrassing communications.
“He is alleged to have developed computer malware later named “Fruitfly” that he installed on computers and that enabled him to control each computer by accessing stored data, uploading files, taking and downloading screenshots, logging a user’s keystrokes, and turning on the camera and microphone to surreptitiously record images and audio,” the DoJ says.
Besides installing Fruitfly, Durachinsky is also accused of producing child pornography, as in some cases, the malware alerted him if a user typed any pornography term. It’s likely such action would prompt recording.
Durachinsky is facing charges of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations, Wiretap Act violations, production of child pornography, and aggravated identity theft.
However, the charges are merely allegations at this time, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.