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‘One of the world’s largest’ cybercrime markets, believed to be located in Russia, shut down

The U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 22, 2013. (Chuck Myers/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

International police have shut down what they called “one of the world’s largest” online markets dealing in millions of stolen identities and account details, Europol and U.S. officials said on April 5.

The global sweep targeting the Genesis Market, a website that the U.S. Treasury Department believes is located in Russia, resulted in about 120 arrests worldwide and involved 17 countries and was led by the FBI and the Dutch police, the EU’s policing agency said.

Operation Cookie Monster, as the action was dubbed, was “an unprecedented law enforcement operation” that resulted in the takedown of Genesis Market, “one of the most dangerous marketplaces selling stolen account credentials to hackers worldwide,” Europol said.

“This website has been seized” was the message that any users of the Genesis Market website saw when they tried to access it after the raids.

Suspects were targeted by law enforcement in Australia, Britain, Canada, the United States, and more than 10 countries in Europe.

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said police had arrested 24 people there in connection with the Genesis Market investigation. Another 17 people were arrested in the Netherlands.

“We assess that the Genesis is one of the most significant access marketplaces anywhere in the world,” said Rob Jones, a top official with the NCA.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement that many of the forum’s users were arrested on April 3, and the investigation into Genesis is still ongoing.

Since its founding in 2018, Genesis Market offered access to data stolen from over 1.5 million compromised computers around the world containing more than 80 million account access credentials, the Justice Department statement said.

The market — a “one-stop shop for account takeovers” — was advertised on several predominantly Russian-speaking underground forums, the cybersecurity company Trellix said in a research report.

The U.S. Treasury Department also announced sanctions against Genesis Market on April 5. The sanctions block access to any bank accounts or other assets Genesis Market owns in U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit Americans from dealing with it.