DarkMarket: FBI Sting Closes E-DoorsBy: Dennis Dwyer
DarkMarket.ws (known in carding, identity theft, and other black-hat rings) went 'Dark' earlier this month. DarkMarket was widely known and respected among criminals as a forum for exchanging stolen banking data, credit card information, and other underground activities. What users of the site didn't know was that the site wasn't really hosted by Eastern-European hackers. Run from an FBI location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Agents of the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance collaborated with industry professionals and graduate students for assistance tracing the identity and locations of criminals. The DarkMarket site was run primarily by agent J. Keith Mularski, under the handle 'Master Splyntr'.
Reports leaked from Sdwestrundfunk, a German radio station, revealed the FBI operation's role in detaining a German card fraudster active on the site. In operation since November of 2006, DarkMarket was especially well known for English-speaking forums. Ironically, soon after DarkMarket's launch in 2006, well-known hacker Max Ray Butler penetrated the site's servers and found information revealing FBI ties. Butler's claims to the underground were largely ignored; at the time, he ran a competing underground forum. As a result, most believed his claims false. DarkMarket successfully continued operations despite Butler's claims.
Now that the site has gone down and the cat is out of the bag, numerous arrests are expected. This is a big win for the good guys. So far, 56 arrests have been made. We have a suspicion that others who may have conducted business at DarkMarket have not been sleeping too well, as additional arrests are expected.
In this case, the FBI got it right. It's an impressive feat to penetrate the inner circle of these criminals.