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A Merseyside man has been jailed for two years after using a notorious Remote Access Trojan (RAT) to spy on women via their webcams.

Scott Cowley, 27, of St Helens, was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court this week after pleading guilty to offences under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act and Sexual Offences Act.

He’s said to have used the Imminent Monitor RAT (IM-RAT) to remotely spy on his victims. According to local reports, arresting officers found three folders on his laptop named after each of his victims. They apparently contained images and videos of the women undressing and of one of them having sex.

Officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) had little problem in tracking him down as he reportedly used a PayPal account linked to his real name and email address to purchase the malware.

NWROCU’s detective sergeant Steve Frame welcomed the sentencing on Monday.

“This conviction demonstrates that despite the high-tech nature of the Cyber Crime, offenders have no place to hide. We take all reports of cybercrime seriously and are absolutely committed to tackling and undermining this evolving threat,” he added in a statement.

“If you have been the victim of a similar crime, or suspect somebody is involved in committing this type of crime please call 101 and report it to your local police force.”

Cowley was arrested as part of a global crackdown on the RAT at the end of November 2019 led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and coordinated internationally by Europol.

Some 13 of the RAT’s “most prolific users” were arrested and 430 devices seized, according to Europol. In the UK alone, 21 search warrants led to the arrest of nine individuals including Cowley, and the recovery of 100 items.

The operation began in June 2019 when warrants were issued to search an alleged employee and developer of the IM-RAT.

The malware is thought to have been used in 124 countries and sold to more than 14,500 buyers, generating huge demand thanks to its ease-of-use and relatively low selling price of just $25.

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