Law enforcement authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have arrested 28 people on suspicion of operating Web sites that were allegedly designed to steal, sell and forge credit cards and identification documents.
"Operation Firewall" targeted 21 suspects in the United States and seven others in six nations who allegedly are responsible for running Web sites that investigators said served as online bazaars for hackers and identity thieves.
The sites, which operated under names like Shadowcrew, Carderplanet and Darkprofits, were hosted on multiple Internet servers outside the United States in countries such as Belarus, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine, authorities said.
The operation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service, the Justice and Homeland Security departments, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Europol and local police departments.
According to a filing at the U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., the suspects sold and exchanged stolen information and counterfeit documents such as credit cards, driver's licenses, birth certificates and foreign and domestic passports. They bought or sold about 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers in all, investigators said.
The operation began in November after credit card giant MasterCard International Inc. briefed authorities on more than 100 Web sites and Internet chat rooms specializing in credit card and identity document trafficking.
"We're talking about an international network that has new sites popping up all the time," said Sergio Pinon, MasterCard's senior vice president of security risk services. "These aren't high-tech individuals: All it takes is a computer, a little bit of knowledge, and these guys can do a lot of damage."
Krebs is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com.