Darkode Hacking Forum Goes Dark

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Notorious hacking forum used by Lizard Squad and other cybercriminals taken offline by the FBI

The war on hackers continues with the news that the infamous Darkode forum can no longer be accessed.

The English-language cybercrime forum (Darkode.me) was taken offline this week in a co-ordinated global law enforcement takedown.

Forum Takedown

Arrested (c) Photographee.eu, Shutterstock 2014According to security reporter Brian Krebs, the forum served as “a breeding ground for botnets, malware and just about every other form of virtual badness.”

The takedown operation has been described by officials as “the largest coordinated international law enforcement effort ever directed at an online cyber-criminal forum.”

The forum was reportedly used by Lizard Squad and other cybercriminals, and was the subject of a investigation carried out by authorities in 20 countries, led by the FBI.

“Darkode was an online, password-protected forum in which hackers and other cyber-criminals convened to buy, sell, trade and share information, ideas, and tools to facilitate unlawful intrusions on others’ computers and electronic devices,” an FBI statement said.

It said that before becoming a member of Darkode, prospective members were allegedly vetted  beforehand, and Darkode members allegedly used each other’s skills and products to infect computers and electronic devices around the world.

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

“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. “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.”

It seems that the Darkode takedown was a result of the FBI’s infiltration, as part of Operation Shrouded Horizon, of the Darkode’s membership. That operation was carried out with the assistance from Europol and their European Cyber Crime Center (EC3).

Hacker Arrests

And at least 28 people have reportedly been arrested as part of the global operation that included countries like Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Nigeria, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Many of the arrests took place in America, but arrests have also taken place in the UK, Sweden and Pakistan. According to the UK’s National Crime Agency, the British person arrested is a 26-year-old man from Coventry, England. He was subsequently bailed.

In addition, the NCA said an address in Paisley, Scotland, had been searched and material removed for examination. It said that five other suspected members of the site had previously been arrested, most of whom were from Essex.

“This has been a truly global operation, targeting both the infrastructure of an online hub for high-end cyber crime, and suspected members of its criminal community,” said Steven Laval, senior investigating officer at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit.

“Despite the exclusive nature of Darkode and the technical skills of its users, this action shows once again that we can identify and pursue those we believe are seeking to offend through an apparently secure online environment, far removed from their victims,” said Laval.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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