Cybercrime Marketplace Shut Down in Operation Cookie Monster
In an extraordinary takedown, law enforcement agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Dutch National Police have closed down Genesis Market, one of the world’s largest online hacker marketplaces. This incredible operation has disrupted the operations of these cybercriminals, who specialized in selling digital identities, ‘bots’, and access to online accounts.
Genesis Market offered a wide range of services, including access to Gmail, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, WordPress, PayPal, Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter, Zoom, and eBay. They sold digital identities and ‘bots’ that had infected victims’ devices through malware or account takeovers. Their prices were ranging from 70 cents for the basic personal data of individuals to several hundred dollars for corporate accounts or access to online banking.
Uniquely, buyers received a browser designed to mimic their victim’s browser, allowing the hacker to access their accounts without triggering security measures. This malicious activity led to fraud, ransomware, sim-swapping, and the theft of corporate code. But, thanks to the FBI and Dutch National Police, the operations of these cybercriminals have been disrupted.
Massive Identity Theft Ring Dismantled in Global Operation
This development is a major milestone in the global fight against cybercrime. In an ambitious operation dubbed ‘Operation Cookie Monster’, 208 property searches, 119 arrests, and 97 ‘knock and talk’ interventions were carried out across the globe. This effort resulted in the take-down of Genesis Marketplace. The website was selling over 1.5 million bot listings and two million stolen identities.
The FBI has replaced the website with a message warning that the site has been taken down. The FBI is asking for information about the site’s administrators. Europol, which provided support and coordination for the operation, is calling the action a major success.
“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. With victims located across the globe, the strong relationships with our international partners were critical in the success of this case.”Edvardas Šileris, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre
End of Cyber criminal Marketplace?
For years, cyber criminals have been operating in the shadows of the internet, using clandestine services to facilitate their fraudulent activities. The Genesis Market was one of the most notorious of these services – a black market bazaar of illicit goods and services, accessible only by invitation. Fortunately, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Dutch Police have put an end to this saga.
The Genesis Market provided cyber-criminals with the tools and services they needed to carry out their attacks – to extract financial gain through their illicit activities. Rob Jones, director general of the NCA and threat leadership, commented on the success of the operation: “This is a huge blow to criminals across the globe.”
In order to help those affected by the Genesis Market’s closure, the Dutch Police has created a portal where individuals can check if their information has been compromised. In Additions they also advise those affected to run an anti-virus program and notify any relevant third-parties such as banks and insurance companies.
The takedown of Genesis Market is an important step in the fight against cyber crime. We can only hope that its closure will be a strong deterrent to other criminal operations and help make the internet a safer place.