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.