FBI catches cyber criminals with undercover forum

News by Dan Raywood

The FBI has captured the details of thousands of hackers and spammers via an online forum.

The FBI has captured the details of thousands of hackers and spammers via an online forum.


Many ID thieves and hackers had been using DarkMarket.ws as a forum to share details of victims and tips, however the whole forum was secretly run by a federal cybercrime agent for two years.


The forum was voluntarily closed earlier this month after running for just under two years, the reason given was that the forum was ‘attracting too much information.'


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 forum was uncovered by the German radio station Südwestrundfunk, and an FBI memo sent to the German national police regarding a forum member in that country claims: “Currently, the FBI has been successful in penetrating the inner 'family' of the carding forum, DarkMarket.” An email sent in March 2007 from Mularski's FBI address to his German counterpart confirmed his secret identity as Master Splynter


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.


SpamHaus had listed Master Splynter as an Eastern European spammer named Pavel Kaminski, who was active as recently as 2005. It's possible the FBI took over the handle sometime thereafter.


In 2004, the Secret Service ran a similar scheme on the crime board ShadowCrew, but that agency used an informant, who went on to commit more crimes - a risk not likely present with agent Mularski.

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