Feds take down elite hacking forum

The Justice Department said Wednesday it had taken down a hacking forum known as Darkode.

The government has filed criminal charges against 12 people allegedly affiliated with the forum, a dark Web repository for hacking tools of all kinds.

{mosads}The sting is part of a global law enforcement effort. Twenty other countries — from Australia to Cyprus to the United Kingdom — have also charged or arrested 70 alleged Darkode members.

“We have dismantled a cyber hornets’ nest of criminal hackers which was believed by many, including the hackers themselves, to be impenetrable,” said David Hickton, the U.S attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

U.S. officials are claiming it as a major victory in their fight against the massive cyber crime rings that have rapidly proliferated over the last few years.

Law enforcement has struggled to pin down cyber crooks hiding behind anonymity software in far-flung countries.

“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,” Hickton said.

In terms of scale, Wednesday’s action ranks with a worldwide raid last fall that took down hundreds of black market websites hidden on the underground anonymous network Tor.

The DOJ said Darkode was a members-only forum where elite hackers not only bought and sold digital intrusion tools but also schemed and swapped tips. Those who wanted to join had to prove their worth by presenting unique or exemplary hacking skills or products.

“This is a milestone,” said FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano.

Since taking office in April, Attorney General Loretta Lynch has publicly vowed to make tackling cyber crime one of her top priorities.

Wednesday’s announcement is her department’s biggest action to date on that front.

“This operation is a great example of what international law enforcement can accomplish when we work closely together to neutralize a global cyber crime marketplace,” said DOJ Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell.

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