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Bungling cybercops' r00t-y0u.org sting backfires

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Australian Federal police have been humbled after boasting of taking over an underground cybercrime forum - only for hackers to break into a federal police computer system, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Police computer security experts claimed responsibility for taking over the r00t-you.org cybercrime forum as part of a sting operation on ABC's Four Corners TV programme on Monday night entitled Fear in the Fast Lane. The Feds had reportedly configured their own systems as a honeypot designed to track and trace denizens logging into the forum. Police gained access to the forum not through infiltration but after raiding the Melbourne home of the forum's alleged administrator last Wednesday.

r00t-y0u.org numbers an estimated 5,000 members, a fair percentage of which were reckoned to have been involved in cybercrimes of one sort or another, so the honeypot plan promised rich pickings.

Unfortunately the wheels fell off the scheme, because the officers involved failed to set a password on the database behind the honeypot site, allowing hackers to seize control with the minimum of effort. The scheme was further undermined by the fact some of the denizens on the forum were aware of the raid, and therefore suspicious when police logged into the site using the administrator's login credentials.

Hackers who broke into the system reportedly got their hands on police evidence, or at least federal police servers. Screenshots purportedly taken from these systems was posted on anonymous document-sharing site pastebin.com. These shots contained what was said to be fake IDs and stolen credit card numbers, as well as information on the federal police's server.

The hacker then defaced the r00t-y0u.org website with a message claiming that police had only succeeded in busting a couple of novice hackers (script kiddies) in the first place.

Chris Boyd (aka Paperghost), a security researcher at IM security firm Facetime who has taken part in many forum takedowns, describes the Australian police handling of the takedown of r00t-y0u.org as cack-handed. He's particularly critical of a decision by police to post messages on the forum in the immediate aftermath of the raid and, still worse, to film these messages getting posted for national TV.

A federal police spokeswoman confirmed the hack but denied suggestions that any evidence might have been compromised, adding that the hacked system was not connected to the wider police network. She went on to claim that Federal police were hot on the trail of the ne'er-do-wells involved.

"The AFP [Australian Federal Police] has identified a person who has attempted to access the stand-alone computer system and we are currently working with our law enforcement partners regarding this matter," the spokeswoman said.

Australian federal police are yet to charge anyone over the r00t-y0u.org forum bust. ®

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