More than 70 people from around the world have been arrested during the takedown of Darkode, which counts among the most notorious underground cybercrime web forums, according to a report in the BBC.
“We have dismantled a cyber-hornets’ nest… which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable,” said one of the US state attorneys involved in the operation.
The crackdown, led by the FBI was dubbed Operation Shrouded Horizon and was initiated over two years ago by the FBI’s office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The operation has since spanned and integrated several law enforcement agencies such as Europol and dozens of countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Nigeria, Serbia, the United Kingdom and the United States among others.
Darkode and its dark reign
Having been in operation since 2007, Darkode was an online marketplace which functioned as a hub that helped facilitate the buying, trading and selling of goods including spyware, malware, zero-day exploits, stolen credit card numbers and botnets among other attack tools.
The hacking forum has been described as “the most sophisticated English-speaking forum for criminal computer hackers around the world,” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Europol added that Darkode was “the place to go” for English-speaking cyber criminals around the world despite the presence of over 800 prominent cybercrime forums on the internet.
“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 US Attorney David Hickton in a statement posted on the Department of Justice website.
Europol estimates Darkode to have had between 250 to 300 active members in its forums before being shut down. The relatively low number was due to the fact that Darkode employed a strict membership policy wherein the sign-up process required an existing member to invite a prospective new member to the forum. Once invited, the candidate would then have to prove their ‘hacking’ skills through various tests to prove
themselves to existing members before earning a membership.
Members in the notorious forum reportedly included many of the Lizard Squad hacking team, infamous for their distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s XBOX Network.
The FBI adds that the investigation of the Darkode forum is ongoing and further arrests are expected to be made.