#CyberFLASH: Darkode malware marketplace shuttered; probe reached into Canada

imagePITTSBURGH — The Justice Department shut down an online “criminal bazaar” where computer hackers bought and sold stolen databases, malicious software and other products that could cripple or steal information from computers and cellphones, authorities said Wednesday.

Roughly 70 alleged cybercriminals in the United States and 19 other countries were targeted in the 18-month probe of Darkode.com. The secretive, members-only site was the largest-known English language malware forum in the world until the FBI got a court order to shut it down, investigators said.

“We have dismantled a cyber-hornets’ nest of criminal hackers which was believed by many to be impenetrable,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

Those targeted for arrest or searches live in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Nigeria, Romania, Serbia and Sweden. There are victims in all of those countries, and others, authorities said.

Twelve people have been charged in the United States by federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Louisiana and the District of Columbia, including Daniel Placek, 27, of Glendale, Wisconsin, and Matjaz Skorjanc, of Maribor, Slovenia.

They allegedly created Darkode in 2007 “for the purpose of bringing together the most talented computer hackers and cybercriminals on the Internet,” court documents said.

Skorjanc is jailed in Slovenia and must be brought to Pittsburgh to face charges including racketeering conspiracy and wire, bank and computer fraud. He doesn’t have an American attorney.

Placek, charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, will surrender once a federal judge in Pittsburgh orders him to appear. His attorney didn’t immediately return a call.

Twenty-eight others have been arrested by foreign authorities.

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