More details are emerging about the international law enforcement operation that dismantled Darkode, described by authorities as the world's biggest English-language online crime forum. Among the 70 people arrested worldwide are the site's alleged administrator, aged 27, and a 20-year-old man who allegedly designed malware intended to remotely control and steal data from Google Android devices.
The site had from 250 to 300 active members. Before it was shut down Tuesday, it had been secretly infiltrated by FBI agents for more than 18 months. While monitoring the day-to-day activities of members, agents observed advertised products including personal information of 39,000 people taken from a database of Social Security numbers, 20 million e-mail addresses and user names used in a variety of scams, ransomware programs, and other online criminal wares. Some of the users allegedly took part in hacks late last year on Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox networks.
"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," US Attorney Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania said in a statement published Wednesday morning. "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."