Authorities Smash Hacking ‘Hornet’s Nest’ (July 16, 2015)
A major online hacking forum and malware marketplace has been shut down in a coordinated operation by law enforcement officials in 20 countries. The site, known as Darkode, had served as a source for users to exchange hacking tools and information at least since 2008. The forum was known for strictly limiting access, requiring potential members to be referred by existing members and prove they had hacking and skills to offer. After a two-year investigation, the FBI and Justice Department this week executed a coordinated raid on Darkode, working with law enforcement agencies in 20 countries around the world to arrest or indict 70 people, including 12 in the U.S., and shut down the site. The operation stemmed from an undercover agent gaining access to the forum, according to reports.
“The FBI has effectively smashed the hornets’ nest, and we are in the process of rounding up and charging the hornets,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton, announcing the raid. Hickton characterized Darkode—which had 250 to 300 active members—as the largest known English-language malware forum in the world and “one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world.”
The multinational takedown of Darkode follows last month’s bust of a crime ring that had used malware to attack online banking systems in Europe. But despite those recent successes, cybercrime remains a major threat. The cost of data breaches worldwide is expected to quadruple over the next four years, to $2.1 trillion, according to Juniper Research. And the FBI recently issued an alert to retailers warning of a new form of malware designed to steal shoppers’ personal financial data.