International law enforcement have cracked down on an online crime forum, called Darkode, that facilitated the purchase and trade of malware, botnets, and stolen personal information, including credit card details and user credentials.
On Wednesday, the FBI announced that the takedown led to charges, arrests and searches of 70 suspected forum members and "associates" worldwide. So far, 12 individuals have been indicted in the U.S., including Darkode's alleged administrator, an FBI release said.
Federal investigators said that the underground forum was password-protected, and that “a potential candidate for forum membership had to be sponsored by an existing member and sent a formal invitation to join.”
“In response, the candidate had to post an online introduction—basically, a resume—highlighting the individual's past criminal activity, particular cyber skills, and potential contributions to the forum. The forum's active members decided whether to approve applications,” the FBI said. Overall, investigators estimate that Darkode had up to 300 members.
In a separate announcement, the Department of Justice revealed the names of defendants who have had various computer crime charges filed against them in courts in the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the District of Columbia and the Western District of Louisiana.
In Wisconsin, Daniel Placek, a resident of the state, was charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud. According to DOJ, Placek is “accused of creating the Darkode forum, and selling malware on Darkode designed to surreptitiously intercept and collect e-mail addresses and passwords from network communications.”
Johan Gudmunds, a native of Sweden who faces charges in Pennsylvania, is suspected of serving as Darkode's administrator, and was charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Matjaz Skorjanc of Slovenia, who faces charges in Washington, D.C., is accused of conspiring to organize the forum, the DOJ release said.
Law enforcement in 20 countries, including Brazil, Romania, Sweden, Canada, the U.K. and U.S., coordinated the takedown efforts. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Shrouded Horizon.”