More than 70 people have been searched, arrested, or charged for activities connected to the Darkode cybercrime forum, federal prosecutors announced today. Darkode operated as a kind of marketplace for the raw materials of cybercrime, a place where would-be criminals could buy exploit kits, ransomware, or access to an illegally assembled botnet. That attracted the attention of federal agents, who infiltrated the forum as part of an investigation they called Operation Shrouded Horizon. In an official statement, the Department of Justice called it "the largest coordinated international law enforcement effort ever directed at an online cyber-criminal forum."
Today's raids span 20 different countries, from Brazil to Romania, with only 12 of the charged suspects residing in the US. The nature of the crimes is also widely varied, as a result of Darkode's catchall nature. One suspect in Pittsburgh has been charged with designing and selling a strain of Android malware called Dendroid, while another suspect in Binghamton is charged with assembling a botnet through Facebook spam. Darkode's alleged administrator, Johan Anders Gudmunds of Sweden, has been charged with a variety of conspiracy charges for his role in enabling the crimes.
The raid is a sign of how accustomed police forces have grown to the international nature of cybercrime. The GameOver Zeus raids in June of last year spanned 11 countries, and globe-spanning prosecutions have become increasingly common as prosecutors turn their attention to online crime. In this case, the infiltration of a single forum led to suspects around the world, so coordinating with foreign law enforcement agencies was crucial if suspects were going to be apprehended before word of the raid got out.