Darkcode Hacker Pleads Guilty to Infecting 77,000 Computers and Aiding Online Heists

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Just one month after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested dozens of hackers apart of an online hacking forum, one of the hackers has pleaded guilty to helping break in some 77,000 computers in front of the U.S. District Court Monday.

Eric Crocker, 39, from Binghamton, New York, was among 12 other individuals charged in July when federal U.S. authorizes dismantled the internal hacking forum with the help of international law enforcement spanning 18 countries, Reuters reported.

Crocker, also known under his online alias “Phatsman”, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the CAN-SPAM Act, a federal law on violations of Internet communication, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Crocker used a hacking tool called Facebook Spreader to break into some 77,000 computers. Facebook spreader is among other popular auto-spreading tools that use common spam, phishing and malware tactics to close in on victims. Once the one victim is infected, the malware-laden tool will then begin automatically spreading the malware through infected victims Facebook, making for an endless yet vicious cycle of malware.

According to prosecutors, Crocker alongside other Darkcode hackers would then sell access to infected computers, stating they would send out any commercial message to the barrage of computers for a small fee. Hackers were paid around $200 to $300 for every 10,000 computers they had infected.

Crocker is among a dozen other hackers awaiting their sentencing but could face up to three years in federal prison alongside a hefty $250,000 fine. Crocker awaits his official sentencing set for November 23.

Federal officials and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh coordinated the Darkode investigation, dubbed Operation Shrouded Horizon, which resulted in the raid of 27 homes and the arrest of 28 hackers spanning 18 countries. International law enforcement throughout 20 nations helped coordinate the cyber criminal forum take down.

Law enforcement shut down the forum, seizing the domain, however, just a few weeks following the shutdown another Darkode forum popped-up. U.S. Attorney David Hickton was the one who announced the charges in the Pittsburgh courtroom, calling Darkode “a cyber hornet’s nest of criminal hackers.”

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“I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building.” - Edward Snowden

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