DarkMarket: A Case of Criminal Branding

From SOCA (Serious Organized Crime Agency — UK):

DarkMarket provided a sophisticated, invitation-only service for criminals to buy and sell compromised credit card information and anything else they needed to commit financial crime. It also offered training in fraud techniques, including online bank account takeovers, and money laundering. There was a business-like hierarchy, with an elite core in the management positions. Further down the hierarchy, reviewers would assess potential new members for suitability. At the bottom end of the ladder, new members would have to prove their criminal credentials and ability before they were accepted as full members.

The case against the men was brought after an international investigation – involving SOCA, the FBI and the United States Secret Service – resulted in DarkMarket being closed down in October 2008. The site had been infiltrated by undercover officers and by the time it closed down one of them, an FBI agent using the online nickname MastrSplyntr, had become the most powerful individual in the forum.

SOCA, the FBI and the United States Secret Service collaborated on this case and shut down the DarkMarket more than a year ago.  Back in May 2009, FBI Agent J. Keith Muharski (a.k.a. MastrSplyntr) conducted an interview with ZD Net where he detailed the nature of the case.  The combined forces made 60 arrests in Germany, Turkey, the UK and the US.  The Spamhaus Project falsified information to establish credibility for Agent Muharski.  What were the stakes?

They were doing all sorts of identity theft. They were hacking into companies and stealing credit card numbers and selling them. They were selling counterfeit drivers’ licences and other photo documentation as well as manufacturing fake credit cards. They were selling harvested bank accounts and brokerage accounts and selling different types of malware or spyware programs or Trojan horses that you could infect peoples’ computers with.

The whole gamut of the cyber underground was available there. If you needed it, you could get it there on the site.

Interesting stuff.


  1. What’s interesting is how you can fly a plane into a federal building out of spite and not be called a terrorist. That’s what’s interesting.Anyway, sorry to rant, but even though I wrote about it on my blog I had more to say.

  2. I don’t know how the FBI classified the event. I heard the local police chief (or spokesperson) say that his department did not believe the event was a “terrorist” activity. I suppose that for him the only missing link was the Neo-Con fabrication of a broad-based movement (like Al Qaeda). The Neo-Cons never built from thin air a movement for domestic terrorism. The international myth has serious legs, so the shadow boxing continues. I still think Osama’s on the Riviera sippin’ Veuve with hootchies.

  3. By Stack’s own admission he got caught up in tax protest at a very early and impressionable age. Pure tragedy.

    One of my buddies and a former professional associate similarly got caught up with Irwin Schiff and has suffered the consequences of that early and impressionable indiscretion ever since.

    That there is a deep and long lasting connection to the essential core of the tea party movement is now beyond dispute.

  4. I had never heard of Irwin Schiff, thanks for the info. I don’t know if dude was right or not, but the feds did him dirty for real.
    Also, on the blog topic, I’m always amazed at the shadowy worlds that exist on the same plane as my “real world” but which never connect. I mean, I have no idea how hacking works, but obviously there are thousands of folks who do, and who do it for fun. Crazy.

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