Cybercrime Supersite 'DarkMarket' Was FBI Sting, Documents Confirm
DarkMarket.ws, an online watering hole for thousands of identify thieves, hackers and credit card swindlers, has been secretly run by an FBI cybercrime agent for the last two years, until its voluntary shutdown earlier this month, according to documents unearthed by a German radio network.
Reports from the German national police obtained by the Südwestrundfunk, Southwest Germany public radio, blow the lid off the long running sting by revealing its role in nabbing a German credit card forger active on DarkMarket. The FBI agent is identified in the documents as J. Keith Mularski, a senior cybercrime agent based at the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance in Pittsburgh, who ran the site under the hacker handle Master Splynter.
The NCFTA is a non-profit information sharing alliance funded by financial firms, internet companies and the federal government. It's also home to a seven-agent FBI headquarters unit called the Cyber Initiative and Resource Fusion Unit, which evidently ran the DarkMarket sting.
The FBI didn't return a phone call Monday.
Like earlier crime sites, DarkMarket allowed buyers and sellers of stolen identities and credit card data to meet and do business in an entrepreneurial, peer-reviewed environment. Products for sale ran the gamut from specialized hardware, to electronic banking logins collected from phishing attacks, stolen personal data needed to assume a consumer's identity ("full infos") and credit card magstripe swipes ("dumps), which are used to produce counterfeit cards. Vendors were encouraged to submit their goods for review before offering them for sale.
The documents indicate the FBI used DarkMarket to build "intelligence briefs" on its members, complete with their internet IP addresses and details of their activities on the site. In at least some cases, the bureau matched the information with transaction records provided by the electronic currency service E-Gold.