Feeds

DarkMarket carder forum revealed as FBI sting

Cybercrooks bamboozled

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

Leaked documents have confirmed that carder forum DarkMarket was actually an FBI sting operation.

For the last two years until its shutdown earlier this month DarkMarket.ws posed as a forum where identity thieves, credit card fraudsters, crackers and other ne'er do wells could hang out and exchange tips as well as trading hacker tools and stolen data. In reality, the site was run by Federal agents based in Pittsburgh.

The true identity of the site was revealed by Südwestrundfunk, a German public radio station, Wired reports. The station unearthed documents showing that one of the site's overlord, Master Splynter, who posed as a spammer, was senior cybercrime agent J Keith Mularski. The DarkMarket sting was instrumental in trapping a German credit card hacker active on its forums.

DarkMarket offered a place to flog stolen credit card information and identities, hardware, and credit card magstripe swipes. The English-language site looked like somewhere the bad guys could get pointers on the quality of stolen information, harvested through phishing scams and the like, before buying goods.

Leaked documents show that the FBI had run DarkMarket as a sting since November 2006. A memo from FBI cybersleuths to their German counterparts boasts that the "FBI has been successful in penetrating the inner 'family' of the carding forum, DarkMarket". In an email dating from March 2007 FBI agent Mularski bluntly states "Master Splynter is me".

Federal agents used intelligence from the site to develop intelligence reports and mount investigations. It's unclear how many miscreants were busted as a result of the sting. Further arrests may follow and cybercrooks that frequented the forum are likely to be peering nervously over their shoulders.

Master Splynter announced his intention to close the site from 4 October, supposedly because a Turkish ATM fraudster was drawing "unwelcome attention" to the site. The Turkish hacker (Cha0) was marketing an ATM skimming device - fairly standard activity on the site - but he became famous after allegedly kidnapping and torturing a police informant. Local police arrested a suspect, named as Cagatay Evyapan, last month.

Rumours that DarkMarket was a federal sting were known to more clued-up crackers since the latter part of 2006, after a hacker reported evidence that Master Splynter had logged in from the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance in Pittsburgh. Some dismissed the warning by Max Ray Butler as mud-slinging and continued to use the forum, even after Butler was arrested last year in a case handled by the FBI's Pittsburgh office.

The DarkMarket sting is rare but not unprecedented in US law enforcement circles. The US Secret Service placed an informant in the infamous ShadowCrew cybercrime forum four years ago, but the scheme backfired after the alleged source went on to commit more crimes. ®

The next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.