A notorious Internet underground site that ceased operation last week has turned out to have been used since 2006 by the FBI as part of an elaborate sting operation.
DarkMarket was an online forum for "carders", those who buy and sell stolen identities and credit card information online. The site was recently made public with the arrest of "Chao," a Turkish criminal from devices mounted over the card slots and keypads of ATMs.
In a story on Monday, Wired revealed DarkMarket's primary operator "Master Splynter" to be J. Keith Mularski, a senior FBI agent. Wired credits Südwestrundfunk, a German radio network, for first reporting that the DarkMarket site was operated by the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance (NCFTA) in Pittsburgh.
The NCFTA says it seeks to bring "together local, state, and federal law enforcement, businesses, and academic institutions to functionally collaborate on cybercrime issues."
The DarkMarket site had been long rumored to have been under law enforcement control, however, that didn't stop online criminals from buying and selling credit card information through the forum.
This isn't the first time law enforcement agents have masqueraded as online criminals. As part of "Operation Firewall" in 2005, law enforcement officials successfully infiltrated the ShadowCrew marketplace before putting it out of operation.