Almost four years since an FBI sting infiltrated and dismantled the infamous Darkode cybercrime forum, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has revealed a new arrest and more charges against four conspirators, including those against three international suspects that remain fugitives.
The suspects are being charged with racketeering conspiracy for allegedly developing and distributing malware through the Darkode forum, a black market bazaar for peddling malware, stolen identities, botnets, and vulnerability information, that was the centerpiece of the Dark Web in its heyday.
When the FBI shut down the invitation-only forum in 2015, Darkode had been extant for the better part of eight years, with anywhere between 250 to 300 active members participating.
“Darkode was a criminal organization centered around an online, password-protected criminal forum where high-level international hackers and other cybercriminals convened,” the DOJ said in a statement this week on the latest arrest.
The federal officials reported this week that they brought new charges against an American, a Slovinian, a Serbian, and a Spaniard in an indictment on December 4, 2018. A few days later they arrested the American, Thomas McCormick, aka fubar, on December 4, 2018 at the FBI’s Washington Field Office in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the following three suspects remain at large:
· Matjaz Skorjanc, aka iserdo or serdo, of Maribor Slovenia, who was widely known as the ringleader of Darkode;
· Florencio Carro Ruiz, aka NeTK or Netkairo of Vizcaya, Spain; and
· Mentor Leniqi, aka Iceman, of Gurisnica, Slovinia.
US Attorney Jessie K. Liu alleges in the charging documents that the men were responsible for racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit bank, wire, and access device fraud, identity theft, hacking, and extortion. The maximum penalty for racketeering conspiracy to commit bank fraud is 20 years in jail, while the maximum conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud is 30 years.
The action announced this week is cleanup after a years-long effort to address what one U.S. Attorney called “one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world.”
The forum was the origination point of a number of devastating attacks and attack tools of the time, including the Android-targeting Dendroid malware, which was eventually found to be the partial brainchild of a former intern at security vendor FireEye.
The original takedown of Darkode was the result of Operation Shrouded Horizon, an international cooperation between the FBI and law enforcement from 19 nations that lead to the previous charges, arrests, and searches of 70 members of the forum.
According to reporting from Forbes earlier this spring, a new iteration of Darkode is now back online though it’s no longer an exclusive Dark Web affair. The site is now on the regular Internet, and boasts over 12,000 members exchanging information and selling wares at prices between $200 to $1,000, utilizing Bitcoin to avoid being tracked.
Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading. View Full Bio