The hacker forum Darkode has been destroyed by law enforcement agencies in a crackdown on the sale of stolen data and illegal hacking activities.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice announced the successful completion of an operation designed to take down a popular underground hacking forum. The target? Darkode.
Founded in 2007, Darkode acted as an online market for the sale and trade of stolen data and hacking tools. Members would allegedly also share information, ideas and skills to launch cyberattacks against victim devices worldwide. The forum was password-protected and relied on a referral system to acquire new members.
"Of the roughly 800 criminal internet forums worldwide, Darkode represented one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world and was the most sophisticated English-speaking forum for criminal computer hackers in the world," said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania.
"Through this operation, we have dismantled a cyber hornets' nest of criminal hackers which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable."
The crackdown, dubbed Operation Shrouded Horizon, resulted in the arrest of over 70 people associated with the forum and criminal charges being levied against 12 members of the Darkode community.
Law enforcement from 20 countries participated in the investigation, including Brazil, Canada, Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Among the defendants charged in the Western District of Pennsylvania, individuals have been charged with conspiring to sell malicious code, conspiracy to commit computer and wire fraud, the design and sale of malware used to hijack Android devices, spam distribution and the sale of stolen credit card data. In addition, a number of people are being accused of selling botnet services on the hacking forum.
The 12 who have been arrested and charged come from the US, Sweden, Pakistan, Slovenia and Spain.
Deputy Director Mark F. Giuliano of the FBI commented:
"This is a milestone in our efforts to shut down criminals' ability to buy, sell, and trade malware, botnets and personally identifiable information used to steal from U.S. citizens and individuals around the world.
Cyber criminals should not have a safe haven to shop for the tools of their trade and Operation Shrouded Horizon shows we will do all we can to disrupt their unlawful activities."
The investigation is ongoing, and will likely result in additional arrests.
In February this year, Europol launched an assault against the Ramnit botnet believed to have infected millions of PCs worldwide with the aim of stealing sensitive data and spying on victim activities.
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