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Finnish authorities target cybercriminals in international crackdown

A police operation spanning 20 countries including Finland has shut down a notorious hacking forum which officials say has been behind a string of complex schemes targeting victims and financial systems worldwide.

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Image: Mauritz Antin / EPA

Law enforcers in Finland have contributed to an international operation to shut down a notorious hacking forum.

28 suspected cybercriminals were arrested on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a further 40 or so targets of an ongoing investigation that spanned 20 countries.

Finland's National Bureau of Investigation however said on Thursday that so far no-one in Finland has been arrested or questioned in relation to the investigation.

Authorities say the Darkode forum was the world’s largest-known English language marketplace for stolen databases and hacking tools often used in fraud schemes or cyberattacks. The site, which had up to 300 active members, was seized and closed down by authorities, including the FBI and Europol, on Tuesday.

Among the items available on the site were the personal information of 39,000 people from a social security database, and a list of 20 million e-mails and usernames that could be used for identity theft or other schemes.

Victims worldwide

"During the investigation, the bureau focused primarily on the Darkode members responsible for developing, distributing, facilitating and supporting the most egregious and complex cybercriminal schemes targeting victims and financial systems," an FBI spokesperson said.

As well as in Finland, law-enforcement officials also made arrests or searches in 19 other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil and Israel. Authorities said there are victims in all of these countries, and others.

Authorities said hackers couldn’t just log onto the site, but had to be nominated to join by existing members.

Links with Sony hackers

Computer security experts believe the forum was used by the Lizard Squad, a group of hackers who have carried out high-profile attacks on Sony and Microsoft, among others.

Last month in Finland the trial began of a young man with suspected links to the Lizard Squad, known as “Ryan”. He is accused of a long list of cybercrimes including hacking into the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox online networks.

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