An online criminal forum that was used by thousands of fraudsters to buy and sell stolen credit card and bank details has been shut down following a two year FBI-led undercover operation.
The Dark Market site was used by cyber criminals around the world to buy and sell credit card data, user names and passwords, as well as equipment for carrying out financial crimes. The FBI - which shut the site down earlier this month - says at its peak Dark Market had over 2500 registered members.
The FBI infiltrated the forum, gathering intelligence on leading criminals before teaming with other agencies to identify the fraudsters.
Around 56 people have been arrested following co-ordinated raids carried out in the US, Germany, Turkey and the UK.
Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) arrested 11 people in London, Manchester and Leicester as part of the investigation into the Dark Market Web site.
Soca says sites like Dark Market are closely guarded and inaccessible to most Web users as they operate on an exclusive membership basis and by invitation only. The sites use breaking-news style updates on the latest compromised personal information.
Sharon Lemon, deputy director, e-crime, Soca says the people involved in this kind of activity are not technical experts but "thieves with keyboards".
"They have a certain arrogance - they think they are untouchable," she says.
"The message today is that no-one should feel confident that these forums are a secure place to operate," adds Lemon. "While some suspects remain at large in the UK and overseas, Soca and its partners will continue to identify these individuals and bring them to justice."
Soca says further arrests are expected both in the UK and abroad as the investigation continues.
The operation against the Dark Market forum also prevented $70 million in losses through the seizure of compromised victim accounts, says the FBI.
Says Shawn Henry, assistant director, cyber division, FBI: "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 our 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."
Henry says the arrests "are a good demonstration of the coordination taking place today between the FBI, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and other law enforcement agencies around the globe".