‘Dangerous’ and ‘notorious’ international hacker busted by cops in Mississauga, Brampton and 16 other countries

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Published April 5, 2023 at 10:55 am

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo

A “dangerous” and “notorious” online organization that sells personal account information stolen from people worldwide to hacker groups around the globe has been busted by a massive international law enforcement operation that includes cops in Mississauga and Brampton, the OPP, RCMP, FBI and police in 15 other countries.

The coordinated global law enforcement effort began in 2019 and culminated in the shutdown yesterday (April 4) of Genesis Market, described by police in a news release issued today by Europol (European Union Police) as “one of the most dangerous marketplaces selling stolen account credentials to hackers worldwide.”

“An unprecedented law enforcement operation involving 17 countries has resulted in the takedown of Genesis Market,” the news release stated, adding “this illegal service was shut down and its infrastructure seized.”

The huge police operation, which involved Peel Regional Police and 24 other Canadian law enforcement agencies, also resulted in 119 arrests and 208 property searches around the world on Tuesday, international investigators say.

Europol said the international sweep was led by the FBI and Dutch National Police, with a command post set up at Europol headquarters in Netherlands “to coordinate the different enforcement measures being carried out across the globe.”

Genesis Market was considered by police to be “one of the biggest criminal facilitators, with over 1.5 million bot listings totalling over two million identities at the time of its takedown.”

Essentially, the illegal operation would collect people’s personal information and then sell their identities to criminals in numerous countries, police said.

Online bank accounts were then among the most prevalent targets.

According to Europol, Genesis Market’s main criminal commodity was digital identities.

“This marketplace would offer for sale what the market owners referred to as ‘bots’ that had infected victims’ devices through malware or account takeovers attacks,” police said.

“Upon purchase of such a ‘bot,’ criminals would get access to all the data harvested by it such as fingerprints, cookies, saved logins and autofill form data. This information was collected in real time; the buyers would be notified of any change of passwords, etc.”

Police add that unlike other criminal marketplaces, Genesis Market was “accessible on the open web, although obscured from law enforcement behind an invitation-only veil. Its accessibility and cheap prices greatly lowered the barrier of entry for buyers, making it a popular resource among hackers.”

The takedown of Genesis Market was a priority for law enforcement, Europol said, “given the platform’s ability to facilitate all types of cybercrime.”

The head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, Edvardas Šileris, applauded the massive coordinated police effort.

“Through the combined efforts of all the law enforcement authorities involved, we have severely disrupted the criminal cyber ecosystem by removing one of its key enablers,” he said in the news release. “With victims located across the globe, the strong relationships with our international partners were critical in the success of this case.”

Other countries that had police working the international sting included Australia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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