POLICE have raided a property in Scotland as US authorities working with law enforcement officials abroad shut an online forum representing what US authorities described as “one of the gravest threats” to cybersecurity.
The raid on the address in Paisley followed arrests of suspects across the UK linked to Darkode.com.
Material linked to the forum was taken away for examination after the Scottish raid, although there were no arrests.
It advertised products and services used to commit cyber crime and has been dismantled after an international law enforcement operation, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
Darkode.com, open only to those deemed to have the right levels of cyber and criminal expertise, was taken offline yesterday.
At the same time, 28 arrests were made around the world, bringing the total number of people arrested for suspected offences linked to the site to 70 across 20 countries.
US Attorney David Hickton, in announcing the charges in Pittsburgh, called Darkode “a cyber hornet’s nest of criminal hackers”.
“Of the roughly 800 criminal internet forums worldwide, Darkode represented one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States,” he said.
The FBI and US attorney’s office in Pittsburgh led the investigation, known as Operation Shrouded Horizon. It included authorities from Europol and 20 countries in Europe and Latin America as well as Israel, Nigeria and Australia.
A 26-year-old man from Coventry was arrested by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit. He was questioned and subsequently bailed pending further inquiries, the NCA said.
Five other people believed to have been members of Darkode have previously been arrested by officers from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, which has led and coordinated the UK element of the operation against the forum. They are a 26-year-old man from Biggin Hill, Kent, arrested in November 2013; a 25-year-old man from Caterham, Surrey, arrested in July 2014; a 20-year-old man from Barking, Essex, arrested in July 2014; a 23-year-old man from Marlborough, Wiltshire, arrested in March 2015, and a 53-year-old non-UK national, arrested in Essex in March 2015.
Steven Laval, senior investigating officer at the National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “This has been a truly global operation, targeting both the infrastructure of an online hub for high-end cyber crime, and suspected members of its criminal community.
“Despite the exclusive nature of Darkode and the technical skills of its users, this action shows once again that we can identify and pursue those we believe are seeking to offend through an apparently secure online environment, far removed from their victims.
“The NCA continues to work with partners in the UK and around the world to combat international cyber crime.”
Cybercriminals used Darkode to trade stolen data as well as hacking and spam tools and services, and methods for cyberattacks on governments and companies. It was an invitation-only website, hidden on protected servers. The darkode.com website showed logos of various law enforcement agencies and a notice saying the domain had been seized by the FBI on Wednesday.
Among those charged was Johan Anders Gudmunds of Sollebrunn, Sweden, known as Synthet!c, who the Justice Department said was Darkode’s administrator. Residents of Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Slovenia, Spain and Pakistan also were indicted.
Those charged are accused of crimes including conspiring to commit computer fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, selling and using malware programs that could steal data from computers and cellphones, and using “bot” networks to take over computers for the purpose of sending spam emails.