The Justice Department and FBI said Wednesday that a sophisticated cybercrime marketplace that sold the “digital fingerprints” of broken computer systems was shut down on Tuesday after more than 100 alleged users were arrested in a coordinated international seizure operation.
Investigators say that the darknet site Genesis Market sold 80 million sets of identifying information from more than 1.5 million computers that had been hacked.
This information included login information for bank accounts, passwords for social media sites, and IP addresses from people who had been victims of identity theft or data breaches.
The international law enforcement action, which was led by the FBI and European partners, was called “Operation Cookie Monster.” This was a reference to the “cookies” that computers use to store information about who uses them.
Nearly 120 suspected users of the illegal exchange were arrested, and Genesis’ domain was taken. The United Kingdom and Australia were two of the 15 countries that joined the operation.
Senior law enforcement officials say that some suspects were arrested in the United States, and the investigation is still going on.
Genesis has been around for more than five years. At that time, it is said to have been one of the most active brokers of stolen information, selling data that ransomware attackers later used to get into computer networks in the U.S. and around the world.
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Stolen Data Included Financial Sector and Critical Infrastructure
The Justice Department said that some of the credentials for the financial sector, critical infrastructure, and all levels of government were among the stolen data that was for sale on the marketplace.
Users from almost every country in the world could buy the kind of personal information they wanted to buy online. On Genesis’s website, it was easy to search based on where you were or what kind of account you had.
Senior law enforcement officials said that Genesis, which was only open to people who were invited, sold bots that acted like a “subscription” service to get into compromised systems, sometimes updating the log-in credentials when victims changed their passwords. This made sure that the targeted systems could still be accessed.
“We aren’t just going after the admins or shutting down the site. We’re after the people who use them, “officials said when they told the public about the Genesis takedown.
The seizure of Genesis is the latest move by U.S. investigators and their partners around the world to go after bad actors on the internet. The FBI arrested the founder of BreachForums last month. BreachForums is one of the biggest places for cybercriminals to buy, sell, and trade hacked or stolen information, like bank account numbers and special security codes.
And in January, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies from around the world took down a ransomware group after spying on them for more than a year from inside the network. Since June 2021, the criminal group known as “Hive” has gone after more than 1,500 institutions in more than 80 countries, stealing more than $100 million from them.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a written statement on Wednesday, “Our seizure of Genesis Market should serve as a warning to cybercriminals who run or use these criminal marketplaces. The Justice Department and our international partners will shut down your illegal activities, find you, and bring you to justice.”
Federal investigators tell people who might have had their personal information sold by Gensis to go to HaveIBeenPwned.com. This is a free service that checks if their information was sold and, if it was, changes their login information.
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