The Darkode online forum used by cybercriminals around the world has been shut down by US authorities after an investigation carried out in 20 countries.
Twelve people were also charged, mostly in the US, in what the Justice Department called the largest coordinated international law enforcement effort ever directed at an online forum. Europol said there had been 28 arrests, and the investigation is continuing.
US Attorney David Hickton said: “We have dismantled a cyber-hornets’ nest... which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.
“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.”
The investigation, known as Operation Shrouded Horizon, included authorities from Europol and 20 countries in Europe and Latin America as well as Israel, Nigeria and Australia. Cybercriminals used Darkode to trade stolen data as well as hacking and spam tools and services and methods for cyber-attacks on governments and companies. It was an invitation-only website, hidden by well protected Internet servers used by groups like the Lizard Squad, which carried out numerous attacks.
The darkode.com website on Wednesday showed logos of various law enforcement agencies and a notice saying the domain had been seized by the FBI as part of an investigation with international agencies.
Brian Krebs, who writes about cybercrime on krebsonsecurity.com and had infiltrated the forum in order to study it, said: “Darkode was unusual because it was a virtual crossroads for criminal hackers from a variety of languages, countries and backgrounds.
“For many years, some of the most accomplished cybercriminals sold their wares and services on this forum, including everything from denial-of-service attacks for hire to malicious software and stolen identities and credit cards.”