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FBI charges NiceHash founder over dangerous dark web malware (again)

Darkode was one of the world's most influential hacker forums


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is chasing hackers  including the founder of cryptocurrency mining marketplace NiceHash — over an alleged plot to create and distribute malware through major dark web forum Darkode.

Authorities say Darkode was a “criminal organization” powered by a password-protected online forum. It was used by “high-level international hackers” and other cybercriminals to buy, sell, trade, and share hacking tools, info, and related ideas.

American Thomas McCormack, Spaniard Florencio Carro Ruiz, and Slovenes Mentor Leniqi and Matjaz Skorjanc, have each been charged with racketeering conspiracy, as well as conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.

Each racketeering conspiracy charge includes extortion, identify theft, and access device fraud, a Department of Justice (DoJ) press release dated June 5 confirmed.

Most notably, Matjaz “iserdo” Skorjanc is the creator of cryptocurrency mining marketplace NiceHash. Skorjanc also built the malware that infected more than one million machines to form the impressive Mariposa botnet – one of the largest ever recorded.

Skorjanc and his crew are said to have marketed the malware with claims it could spread quickly to other computers upon infection, steal banking credentials, and even launch DDoS attacks, ZDNet reports.

“Darkode members allegedly used each other’s skills and products to infect computers and electronic devices of victims around the world with malware and, thereby gain access to, and control over, those devices,” said the DoJ.

Curiously, Skorjanc has already served almost five years in prison for creating the Mariposa botnet, and was released in late 2017.

The FBI‘s most-recent charge pertains to his efforts (and those of his accomplices) to disseminate malware through the Darkode hacking forum.

If convicted of racketeering conspiracy to commit bank fraud, each defendant stands to serve a maximum of 20 years in prison; conspiracies to commit wire and bank fraud carry 30 years maximum.

But that’s even if authorities can catch them. So far, they’ve managed to arrest just one of the four fugitives, namely the American Thomas McCormack.

Skorjanc and his two other accomplices are still on the run.

Published June 11, 2019 — 13:40 UTC