Officials worldwide this week culminated an 18-month effort to take down Darkode, a cybercrime forum where hackers fraternized, shared malware, credit card information and more.
The campaign, dubbed Operation Shrouded Horizon, resulted in the arrest of 28 hackers and 27 house searches across 18 countries, according to the F.B.I. and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, two agencies involved in the takedown that on Wedneseday detailed the action.
Law enforcement in 20 nations, including Eastern European countries such as Bosnia/Herzegovina, Romania, Serbia, Latvia, along with factions from Sweden, the U.K., Cyprus, Australia, Nigeria and Denmark, helped carry out the takedown.
Visitors to the forum Wednesday were greeted with a banner from the aforementioned agencies that the domain and website had been seized.
As part of the operation, Johan Anders Gudmunds, a resident of Sweden believed to be Darkode’s administrator was indicted for conspiracy, fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy, according to a press release from the Justice Department.
Several other men from Wisconsin, Florida, Louisiana, and abroad, are also facing charges in the U.S.
Criminal charges are expected to be filed against additional suspects outside the U.S., but those countries require evidence which has yet to be seized.
One of the more prolific English-based cybercrime forums since its inception in 2008, Darkode operated as a closed, members-only community that averaged around 300 users. Users sold stolen banking credentials, zero days, and advertised botnets and DDoS for hire through the black market site.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton, one of several federal investigators who discussed the takedown this morning in Pittsburgh, called the forum “one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world,” according to Reuters.
Hickton, who likened the site to a “cyber hornet’s nest of criminal hackers,” went on to describe some users who frequented the forum, including one who was selling Android malware for $65K and another who was selling a form of malware that spread via Facebook.
“The FBI has effectively smashed the hornets’ nest,” Hickton said, “and we are in the process of rounding up and charging the hornets.”