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article imageFBI and cyber crime: The rise and fall of the DarkMarket

By Dan Steiner     Jul 23, 2013 in Technology
An organization called the DarkMarket sounds like something from Harry Potter, but the actual organization was more ominous than anything Voldemort could concoct.
This group of cybercriminals peeked at over 2,500 members in 2008 and sold one another a variety of stolen information, from back account numbers to Social Security numbers to stolen login information. It also distributed hacking guides, viruses to use as blackmail leverage and even equipment to defraud card users.
The currency in this organization WAS the destruction of lives. Notice the word “was”. The FBI infiltrated and disbanded the DarkMarket in 2008. The physical market never existed, but there was a gathering of sorts: many site participants used the free Wi-Fi of an Internet café in England.The site took advantage of escrow payments to insure delivery and quality of goods. Administrators wanted to make transactions safe. Irony, anyone?
This allowed a virtual market to evolve, with administrators recruiting and moderating transactions and receiving a percentage of each. And how did new members earn a spot in the DarkMarket? Just like a kid pledging to a gang, they had to prove themselves first. To join, members had to bring 100 viable credit card numbers.
Cloak and Dagger and Master Splyntr
Not just anyone could participate. Those that did had to satisfy criteria (reputation and a sort of reverse background check) established by the site’s creator, JiLsi, aka Renukanth Subramaniam of London. Strangely enough, Subramaniam, also the chief administrator of the site, lost a flash drive filled with data. He personally lost hundreds of thousands by misplacing this drive, but was also demoted by other administrators. He soon became a lowly reviewer on this own site.
Another member of the upper echelon who had access to all members’ records was Master Splyntr…aka Special Agent J. Keith Mularski of the FBI. Infiltrating the site at such a high level was a mix of luck and skill, and after two years of careful observation, the DarkMarket was finally brought down in a wave of arrests in the US, the UK, Turkey and Germany. Although the DarkMarket once had thousands of members, only sixty arrests were made but, more importantly, the server itself was secured, so ALL activities of the DarkMarket were recovered, including mounds of stolen information.
Identity Theft: The Efficient Felony
The DarkMarket traded in identity theft. Identity theft isn’t just on the rise because of technology. Its appeal is efficiency. If your car is stolen, you’ll know as soon as you walk to the curb and see an empty spot. But if someone stole your Social Security number or credit card number, you may not realize it until you receive a statement or perform a credit check. Thieves can do a lot of damage in a month.
There’s no smuggling, no chop shops, no physical theft at all. Without traceable information (like an IP address), it borders on the perfect crime. All this information can be stolen with a simple piece of malware downloaded in a game, a song or stolen application. Torrent users should think twice. NEVER has data mining been more productive.
More about Cyber attacks, Cybercrime, dark market, FBI, darkmarket
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