Darkode became notorious as a gathering place for cyber criminals, where they could buy malicious software and tools.

Hacking groups such as the now infamous Lizard Squad were known to frequent the forum before it was shut down by a coordinated international operation, which involved law enforcement agencies from 18 countries, writes Samuel Gibbs for The Guardian.

Hacking Forum Darkode Shut Down By International Operation

Coordinated international operation shuts down hacker forum

Attempts to access the site are now met with a notice which features the logos of the agencies involved, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Europol and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

More than 60 forum users have been identified and arrested in countries including Israel, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, India and Romania, where 16 of the hackers were based. Reports claim that the FBI’s Pennsylvania field office directed the operation.

The Darkode forum was home to some of the most dangerous cybercriminals, who used the site as a marketplace for stolen data, credit card numbers, hacking tools and security exploits.

Rise and fall of Darkode

The site was founded in 2007 and quickly became a place where hacking tools were sold between a select group of hackers. A coder known as Iserdo founded the forum, and its early success was based on his “Mariposa” botnet, which was sold through the forum. Access to Darkode was by invitation only, which only increased its popularity, and it was hosted on “bulletproof” servers designed to prevent tracking by law enforcement.

In 2011 the site became a subject of interest for security researchers, and Darkode administrators tightened access protocols in response. The internet relay chat server that they set up was used by Lizard Squad, who later attacked Sony, Microsoft, Taylor Swift and various other targets.

Darkode’s popularity began to dwindle as members became increasingly paranoid about infiltration by law enforcement and security researchers. One researcher, Brian Krebs, has written a series of reports on Darkode and the malicious software on sale on the site, and administrators attempted to have him banned.

Reports in the Brazilian media state that the Federal Police opened an investigation into hackers in March, working in partnership with the FBI. Law enforcement arrested several people and seized equipment related to the site.