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Mass Crackdown on Cybercrime Forum Leads to Arrests of Dozens of Hackers

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, partnering with counterparts in Brazil and more than a dozen European countries, took down Darkode, a forum for cyber-criminals and a malware marketplace.

“Hackers and those who profit from stolen information use underground Internet forums to evade law enforcement and target innocent people around the world,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. “This operation is a great example of what international law enforcement can accomplish when we work closely together to neutralize a global cybercrime marketplace.”

In addition, more than 60 alleged hackers in 18 countries associated with the website were arrested.

A visit to the Darkode website leads to a notice from the FBI and Europol telling the public that the domain has been seized and the website is under investigation.

“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,” FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano said.

“Cyber criminals should not have a safe haven to shop for the tools of their trade and Operation Shrouded Horizon [the codename for the arrests] shows we will do all we can to disrupt their unlawful activities,” he went on to say.

Darkode began eight years ago as a way for cyber-criminals to distribute their hostile programs and share hacking techniques.

From its founding, Darkode has been under the leadership of a number of illustrious hackers becoming more and more organized. Various security measures were put in place to thwart police investigations, but apparently the FBI cracked the code and made their way into the site.

Police believe that hackers used the site to trade credit card data, e-mail lists, credentials, and other information that can be used in cases of identity theft.

“Hackers used the accounts [they stole] as if they were the victims themselves, performing transfers or pay slips. They even preferred to use corporate accounts, which have higher limits,” Paolo Bergmann, a high-ranking Brazilian official involved with the raid, said.

According to federal officials, the forum had 250 to 300 members at any given time.

“The FBI has effectively smashed the hornets’ nest,” U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said. “We are in the process of rounding up and charging the hornets.”

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