The U.S. Department of Justice and FBI said today that they along with an international coalition of law enforcers have shut down the underground computer hacking forum known as Darkode and filed criminal charges against 12 individuals associated with the forum.
The FBI called the site one of the most serious threats to data security in the world.
FBI documents allege that Darkode was an online forum where hackers and other cyber-criminals met online to buy, sell, trade and share information and help each other unlawfully infiltrate others’ computers and electronic devices. Darkode members allegedly infected computers and electronic devices of victims around the world with malware and gain control over those devices.
The FBI said the dismantling of Darkode and the criminal charges are the result of the FBI’s Operation Shrouded Horizon and a coalition of law enforcement authorities from 20 nations including Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Officials said the coalition is the largest international law enforcement effort ever directed at an online cyber crime forum.
The FBI said the investigation of the Darkode forum is ongoing, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the western district of Pennsylvania in a leadership role in the U.S.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the western district of Pennsylvania and Deputy Director Mark F. Giuliano of the FBI participated in today’s announcement.
Hickton said that 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.”
He said the operation was “believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable.”
“Hackers and those who profit from stolen information use underground Internet forums to evade law enforcement and target innocent people around the world,” said Caldwell. “This operation is a great example of what international law enforcement can accomplish when we work closely together to neutralize a global cybercrime marketplace.”
According to the Justice Department, the following defendants face charges in the western district of Pennsylvania:
- Johan Anders Gudmunds, aka Mafi aka Crim aka Synthet!c, 27, of Sollebrunn, Sweden, is charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is accused of serving as the administrator of Darkode, and creating and selling malware that allowed hackers to create botnets. Gudmunds also allegedly operated his own botnet, which at times consisted of more than 50,000 computers, and used his botnet to steal data from the users of those computers on approximately 200,000,000 occasions.
- Morgan C. Culbertson, aka Android, 20, of Pittsburgh, is charged by criminal information with conspiring to send malicious code. He is accused of designing Dendroid, a coded malware intended to remotely access, control, and steal data from Google Android cellphones. The malware was allegedly offered for sale on Darkode.
- Eric L. Crocker, aka Phastman, 39, of Binghamton, New York, is charged by criminal information with sending spam. He is accused of being involved in a scheme involving the use of a Facebook Spreader which infected Facebook users’ computers, turning them into bots which Crocker controlled through the use of command and control servers. Crocker sold the use of this botnet to others for the purpose of sending out massive amounts of spam.
- Naveed Ahmed, aka Nav aka semaph0re, 27, of Tampa, Florida; Phillip R. Fleitz, aka Strife, 31, of Indianapolis; and Dewayne Watts, aka m3t4lh34d aka metal, 28, of Hernando, Florida, are each charged by criminal information with conspiring to send spam. They are accused of participating in a sophisticated scheme to maintain a spam botnet that utilized bulletproof servers in China to exploit vulnerable routers in third world countries, and that sent millions of electronic mail messages designed to defeat the spam filters of cellular phone providers.
- Murtaza Saifuddin, aka rzor, 29, of Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan, is charged in an indictment with identity theft. Saifuddin is accused of attempting to transfer credit card numbers to others on Darkode.
The following defendant faces charges in the eastern district of Wisconsin:
- Daniel Placek, aka Nocen aka Loki aka Juggernaut aka M1rr0r, 27, of Glendale, Wisconsin, is charged by criminal information with conspiracy to commit computer fraud. He 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.
The following defendants face charges in the District of Columbia:
- Matjaz Skorjanc, aka iserdo aka serdo, 28, of Maribor, Slovenia; Florencio Carro Ruiz, aka NeTK aka Netkairo, 36, of Vizcaya, Spain; and Mentor Leniqi, aka Iceman, 34, of Gurisnica, Slovenia, are each charged in a criminal complaint with racketeering conspiracy; conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; conspiracy to commit computer fraud, access device fraud and extortion; and substantive computer fraud. Skorjanc also is accused of conspiring to organize the Darkode forum and of selling malware known as the ButterFly bot.
The following defendant faces charges in the western district of Louisiana:
- Rory Stephen Guidry, aka email@example.com, of Opelousas, Louisiana, is charged with computer fraud. He is accused of selling botnets on Darkode.
The charges and allegations are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Sources: Justice Department, FBI
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