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Battling Bots

Dark web marketplace that sold bank-hacking bots seized by FBI

A group of international law enforcement agencies, led by the FBI, has seized and shut down one of the largest cybercrime marketplaces on the Internet, it was reported Wednesday. 

The crackdown, dubbed 'Operation Cookie Monster,' seized Genesis Market, described by Forbes as a dark web hub that "specialized in selling digital identities, offering 'bots' — browser fingerprints — that had infected victims' devices through malware or account takeovers." These bots would provide access to "fingerprints, cookies, saved logins, and autofill form data," Forbes added, and allowed people to hack corporate data and personal banking accounts. 

The market is no more, though, as the police action ended with the website's closure by an FBI-helmed law enforcement cooperative. The FBI was assisted mainly by the Dutch National Police, but "logos of other European, Canadian, and Australian police organizations were also emblazoned across the [Genesis] site, along with that of cybersecurity firm Qintel," Reuters reported. 

The U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA), which also played a large part in the operation, said in a press release that Operation Cookie Monster involved 17 countries. It described Genesis as a "go-to service for criminals seeking to defraud victims, having hosted approximately 80 million credentials and digital fingerprints stolen from over two million people."

Rob Jones, the NCA's Director General of Threat Leadership, called the website "one of the most significant platforms on the criminal market," adding that "its removal will be a huge blow to criminals across the globe."

The operation led to around 120 arrests across the globe of individuals associated with Genesis.

The consequences did not end there, though, as the United States is also sanctioning Genesis "for its part in the theft and sale of device credentials and related sensitive information," the U.S. Treasury Department announced. The details of these sanctions remain unclear.