Darkode, a forum used by the web’s most notorious hacking groups, has been taken offline after an investigation by authorities in 20 countries. Twenty-eight people have been arrested, including twelve U.S citizens.
The forum served as an international meeting spot for hacking groups and is described by the prosecuting attorney as “the most sophisticated English-speaking forum for criminal computer hackers in the world” and “one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world.”
It had an elite membership, with new members of the forum only admitted if they were recommended by an existing member, and if they were able to show an appropriate resumé of skills and achievements.
The takedown operation, dubbed “Operation Shrouded Horizon”, was one of the largest joint anti-hacking operations to date. If you visit the Darkode website now, all you will find is a takedown notice displaying the insignia of the international law enforcement agencies that collaborated to remove the site. According to the prosecuting attorney, prior to the site’s takedown, it was “believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”
One of the groups that used the site was Lizard Squad, a “black hat” hacking group who have attracted notoriety for a string of high-profile Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, in which servers are artificially flooded with traffic in order to take them offline. According to security analyst Brian Krebs, the most recent administrator of Darkode was a leading member of the group.
Lizard Squad is particularly well-known for their attacks on gaming companies and networks. On Christmas Day last year, they brought down the Playstation Network (PSN) and Xbox Live, preventing millions of gamers from playing over the holiday period.
More recently, servers and websites owned by Daybreak Games have come under DDoS attack after the CEO of the company insulted a Lizard Squad member.
Lizard Squad members have also been involved in “swatting,” a dangerous form of harassment wherein SWAT teams and other emergency services are persuaded to descend on the personal address of victims based on false reports. A teenage member of Lizard Squad residing in Canada recently pleaded guilty to 23 counts of swatting.
The group is also known for “LizardStresser,” a subscription service that allowed users to launch DDoS attacks on targets of their choice, for a small monthly fee. The service was used in DDoS attacks against 8chan, the laissez-faire imageboard which rose to prominence during #GamerGate. It was later compromised by a rival hacking group, which revealed the personal details of subscribers.
According to the BBC, the FBI says that the international operation is still ongoing, and efforts to trace other suspects involved in Darkode will continue.
Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter.