At least 28 have been arrested in a global crackdown on the notorious hacking and cybercrime forum, Darkode.
The site, now shut down, allowed cybercriminals to market stolen databases, credit card information, malicious software and their hacking services. Advertised merchandise include personal information of 39,000 people stolen from a Social Security database, and 20 million emails and usernames that can be targeted for identity theft and phishing attacks.
Items were paid for using bitcoin, which makes it nearly impossible to trace transactions to real-world identities. One of the major concerns expressed by regulators and law enforcement over bitcoin has been its powerful role in cybercrime.
The crackdown was coordinated between the FBI in the US and authorities in at least 20 countries. More than 70 cybercriminals may face charges, with some the subject of search warrants to first turn up substantiating evidence.
The crackdown is the latest in a game of cat and mouse between authorities and cybercriminals. A November operation codenamed ‘Onymous’ involved the seizure of hundreds of domains and at least 17 arrested, delivering a major blow to illegal dark net sites. One of the US attorneys involved in the Darkode investigation commented:
“We have dismantled a cyber-hornets’ nest… which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”
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Visitors to the site are now greeted with a message that it has been seized by the FBI, Pittsburgh Field Office and United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, as part of a joint operation with international agencies including Europol.
In Israel, Lahav 433’s cyber unit arrested three suspected of attacking websites, taking over webstores and stealing credit card information, with one suspected of transferring funds to a terrorist organization, according to Ynetnews.
Darkode was the largest-known English-language forum for such activities, bringing together cybercriminals from an industry typically dominated by Russian and other language forums.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) described:
“Only those proposed for membership by an existing user could join, but not until they posted a resume of the skills and achievements that could contribute to the criminal community.
There was a hierarchical membership structure, and the status of users determined who they could communicate with, and their access to the commodities and services on offer.”
Participants included members of Lizard Squad, a gang of hackers that has carried out high-profile attacks on Sony, Microsoft and others.