The Notorious Hacker Marketplace Darkode Just Got Shut Down

Operation Shrouded Horizon swept up 70 international hackers.

It took a superteam of international law enforcement agencies to do it, but the notorious hacker marketplace Darkode has finally been taken down. The invite-only online forum, active since 2008, sold malware and other tools — used to send spam and steal personal identities on a massive scale — to hacker groups such as Lizard Squad, notorious for its cyberattacks on Microsoft, Sony, and Taylor Swift.

Darkode was a marketplace for hackers and cyber-criminals to buy, sell, share, and trade information and tools directed at penetrating personal computers and other devices. The takedown required 20 countries’ agencies to coordinate — including the FBI, Europol, and the European Cyber Crime Center (EC3) — and arrests were made in the United States and across several countries, led by the FBI’s Pennsylvania field office.

There was lucre in malware. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, recent ads on the marketplace offered 23,000 social security numbers and their corresponding birthdates for a few hundred dollars. Another offered cellphone-hacking software for $65,000.

One of the arrested users created botnets — networks of some 50,000 computers — to steal user data from computers on approximately 200,000,000 occasions. Many of the hackers created and maintained botnets to send out massive amounts of spam designed to infiltrate vulnerable browsers in the developing world or to overwhelm the spam filters of cell phone providers. Another group sold malware for collecting email addresses and passwords from network communications.

The FBI managed to infiltrate the forum’s membership. Of the 70 people arrested worldwide, 10 were arrested in the United States.