International operation shuts down online hacking forum

15 July 2015
 
One of the world’s most prominent online forums dedicated to products and services used to commit cyber crime has been dismantled following an international law enforcement operation.
 
Darkode.com, a site only open to those deemed to have the right levels of cyber and criminal expertise, was yesterday (Tuesday 14th) taken offline by the FBI. At the same time, 28 arrests were made around the world, bringing the total number of people arrested for suspected offences linked to Darkode to 70, across 20 countries.
 
In the UK, a 26-year-old man from Coventry was arrested by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit. He was questioned and subsequently bailed pending further inquiries. Additionally, officers from Police Scotland searched an address in Paisley and removed material for examination.
 
Five other people believed to have been members of Darkode have previously been arrested by officers from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, which has led and coordinated the UK element of the operation.
 
They are:
- A 26-year-old man from Biggin Hill, Kent, arrested in November 2013
- A 25-year-old man from Caterham, Surrey, arrested in July 2014
- A 20-year-old man from Barking, Essex, arrested in July 2014
- A 23-year-old man from Marlborough, Wiltshire, arrested in March 2015
- A 53-year-old non-UK national, arrested in Essex in March 2015
 
Steven Laval, senior investigating officer at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said:
 
“This has been a truly global operation, targeting both the infrastructure of an online hub for high-end cyber crime, and suspected members of its criminal community. Despite the exclusive nature of Darkode and the technical skills of its users, this action shows once again that we can identify and pursue those we believe are seeking to offend through an apparently secure online environment, far removed from their victims.
 
“The NCA continues to work with partners in the UK and around the world to combat international cyber crime.”
 
Darkode.com was one of the most prominent English-language web forums facilitating the trade in goods and services including malware (malicious software), Zero Day Exploits (cyber attacks exploiting software flaws) and access to compromised servers.
 
Only those proposed for membership by an existing user could join, but not until they posted a resumé of the skills and achievements that could contribute to the criminal community. There was a hierarchical membership structure, and the status of users determined who they could communicate with, and their access to the commodities and services on offer.
 
The European part of the international operation was coordinated from a command post at the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), at Europol.
 
Online safety:
Individuals and businesses can protect themselves from many cyber crime threats by ensuring security (antivirus) software and computer operating systems are up to date, and not clicking on links or attachments from unknown or suspicious sources. More information and advice can be found at www.cyberstreetwise.com and www.getsafeonline.org, with additional resources for businesses at www.cyberstreetwise.com/cyberessentials.

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