Hacker forum takedown leads to arrest in Latvia

Latvian State Police announced today that one of the largest hacking forums in the world, Darkode, was liquidated this week, with 28 persons arrested and 37 searches conducted in an international operation carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation backed by the Europol European Cybercrime Centre.

Latvian State Police played their part in the takedown, searching a suspect's residence where drugs were found.

In a statement, the State Police said that a search was carried out at the place of residence of an unnamed individual. In addition to potentially incriminating computers, some 3 grams of hashish and 5 grams of MDMA pills were found, and the person was arrested.

Criminal proceedings for drug offences have been initiated against the suspect, a 1992-born male, and potentially he'll be charged with cyber crime too, when the contents of the computers will be inspected.

According to State Police, the suspect was an active user of the forum.

The Darkode forum was opened in 2009 and had about 250 to 300 users, including some of the world's finest hackers.

“This is a milestone in our efforts to shut down criminals’ ability to buy, sell, and trade malware, botnets and personally identifiable information used to steal from U.S. citizens and individuals around the world,” said Deputy Director Mark F. Giuliano of the FBI.

The forum was used for trading with malware, botnets, stolen credit card data and other tools for committing cyber crime. This is said to be the most influential hacker forum in the English-speaking world, surpassed only by Russian analogues.  

An informed source among the IT community in Latvia who spoke to LSM on condition of anonymity described the arrested individual not as a master hacker but as someone exploiting low-level vulnerabilities, adding that he was a "pot smoker who lives at home with his mother".

Latvia could be called sort of a hub for cybercrime; one of the most infamous hackers from Latvia is the 'Imanta hacker' Deniss Čalovskis who wrote parts of a virus targeting online banking sites. He has been extradited to the US and is currently facing charges at the Manhattan Federal Court.

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