Australian hackers arrested in global password-selling sting


When users attempt to access Genesis Market now, this image appears. Image source: Europol

According to Europol, Genesis Market was considered one oft he biggest criminal facilitators, with over 1.5 million bot listings totalling over 2 million identities at the time of its takedown. All in all, the marketplace hosted approximately 80 million credentials and digital fingerprints.

The Operation, which has been ongoing since 2019 in Europe and since 2020 in Australia, was spearheaded by the FBI and the Dutch National Police. Genesis Market was taken offline on April 4.

The Australian arm of the investigation, named Operation Zinger, saw the AFP and its partners execute 24 search warrants, with 10 arrested in three states.

AFP assistant commissioner, cyber command, Scott Lee, said the marketplace had the potential to cause $46 million in harm to the Australian community. The total number of Australian victims is still being calculated, but investigators identified 36,000 compromised Australian devices available for sale on Genesis Market.

Britain’s National Crime Agency executed 31 warrants, with 24 arrested in the UK. In total, there were 120 arrests, over 200 searches and close to 100 pieces of preventative activity carried out across the globe.

“Behind every cyber criminal or fraudster is the technical infrastructure that provides them with the tools to execute their attacks and the means to benefit financially from their offending,” NCA director General NECC and Threat Leadership, Rob Jones said.

“Genesis Market was a prime example of such a service and was one of the most significant platforms on the criminal market. Its removal will be a huge blow to criminals across the globe.”

Victoria Police acting commander Jane Welsh said this was an example of the effectiveness of global law enforcement response to cyber crimes, adding that Australia would continue to work with partner agencies to scour forums and take action.

How did Genesis Market work?

Genesis Market would offer bots – that had infected victims’ devices through malware of account takeovers – for sale. The price per bot would range from at little as US$0.70 up to several hundreds of dollars, depending on the amount and nature of the stolen data. Generally, the more expensive bots would contain financial information which would allow access to online banking accounts.

Once purchased, criminals were provided with stolen data and a custom browser which would mimic their victims’. This meant criminals could access their victim’s account without triggering security measures.

“Its accessibility and cheap prices greatly lowered the barrier of entry for buyers, making it a popular resource among hackers,” Europol stated.

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