SOCA and the FBI tighten the net on global e-crime

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the FBI launched a joint crackdown on a highly sophisticated multi-million pound online criminal forum resulting in five arrests in the UK.

Nov 6, 2008
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Andy Marsh

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the FBI launched a joint crackdown on a highly sophisticated multi-million pound online criminal forum resulting in five arrests in the UK.

SOCA led the UK arm of a long-term FBI undercover operation on a site known as DarkMarket, a sophisticated online forum where criminals buy and sell stolen financial information, including personal data and credit card details, as well as equipment used in carrying out financial crimes.

The arrests were the latest in a number linked to DarkMarket which have taken place across the UK over the past 18 months.

Sites such as DarkMarket feature breaking news-style updates on the latest compromised personal information, for use while it is still live. The sites are closely guarded and are inaccessible to most web users. They protect themselves by operating on an exclusive membership basis and by invitation only.

Such sites have traded millions of card details, creating an underground economy worth millions of pounds.

Launched in 2005, the site, said to be one of the most significant of its kind, had 2,500 registered members at its peak.

The closure of DarkMarket is estimated to have saved banks and their customers at least $70 million.

Most victims were in North America, Western Europe and Australasia. The criminals who ran and benefited from DarkMarket operated from multiple jurisdictions. Arrests have so far taken place in the UK, the US, Germany and Turkey.

The initial phase of the operation targeted the leading members of the forum with the aim of systematically identifying, locating and arresting them.

Sharon Lemon, SOCA’s deputy director of e-crime, said: “Internet crime is a global issue and together with our international and UK partners we are tightening the net for criminals. The people involved in this kind of activity are not technical experts, they are thieves with keyboards and they have a certain arrogance – they think they are untouchable.

“This is not just about putting people in prison though – a key part of what we do is disrupting the opportunities for criminals, and SOCA is constantly anticipating new techniques and finding ways to combat them.”

FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry added: “In today’s world of rapidly expanding technology, where cyber crimes are perpetrated instantly from anywhere in the world, law enforcement needs to be flexible and creative in its efforts to target these criminals.

“Leads in many of these investigations take us to the online world of Internet forums, where criminals go to engage in the business of selling and trading innocent person’s credit card numbers and other personal information. By joining forces with our international law enforcement counterparts we have been, and will continue to be, successful in arresting those individuals and dismantling these forums. The arrests in the UK are a good demonstration of the coordination taking place today between the FBI, SOCA and other law enforcement agencies around the globe.”

Nearly 60 arrests have taken place worldwide so far in connection with the DarkMarket site, with 11 of these taking place in the UK. Some of the arrests outside the UK have been linked to violence and other organised criminal activity.

The latest arrests follow joint work between the City of London Police and Greater Manchester Police. Previous arrests were made by Humberside and South Yorkshire forces.

Related News

Copyright © 2022 Police Professional