Thu | Apr 6, 2023 | 5:17 AM PDT

In a major crackdown on cybercrime, law enforcement agencies across the globe have seized Genesis Market, a notorious online marketplace for stolen credentials and digital browser fingerprints.

Dubbed "Operation Cookie Monster," the takedown involved the United States FBI, along with law enforcement agencies from the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Canada, Germany, Poland, and Sweden. The operation saw approximately 120 people arrested and 200 searches carried out worldwide.

With the shutdown of Genesis Market, authorities have dealt a significant blow to cybercriminals who have been using the marketplace to sell stolen information to buyers around the world.

The U.S. Department of Justice says that since its creation in 2018, the market "has offered access to data stolen from over 1.5 million compromised computers around the world containing over 80 million account access credentials." The credentials offered included those connected to the financial sector, critical infrastructure, and federal, state, and local government agencies.

Genesis Market was also one of the most prolific initial access brokers (IABs) in the world, selling the type of access ransomware operators typically look for before an attack.

The DOJ discussed the Genesis Market and what made it unique as a darknet marketplace:

"Genesis Market was user-friendly, providing users with the ability to search for stolen access credentials based on location and/or account type (e.g., banking, social media, email, etc.).

In addition to access credentials, Genesis Market obtained and sold device 'fingerprints,' which are unique combinations of device identifiers and browser cookies that circumvent anti-fraud detection systems used by many websites.

The combination of stolen access credentials, fingerprints, and cookies allowed purchasers to assume the identity of the victim by tricking third party websites into thinking the Genesis Market user was the actual owner of the account."

While overall financial losses are still to be determined, the FBI says that Genesis made a minimum of $8.7 million, and noted that total losses for victims likely exceeded tens of millions of dollars.

According to a report from TechCrunch, the now-defunct marketplace has been linked to numerous cyber incidents. In June 2021, the hackers who breached gaming giant Electronic Arts claimed to have gained access by purchasing a $10 bot from Genesis Market that let them log into a company Slack account.

A senior FBI official also spoke with TechCrunch about the operation:

"This is the biggest operation of its kind. We're not just going after administrators or taking sites down; we're going after users on a global scale."

The FBI added that by obtaining Genesis Market's computer systems, officials were able to identify approximately 59,000 users of the marketplace.

The seizure of Genesis Market and the arrests of its users serve as a nice reminder that law enforcement agencies around the world are taking cybercrime seriously and actively working to shut down these illicit operations.

However, as noted by cybersecurity experts, the takedown of Genesis Market may simply result in users and sellers moving to other marketplaces or the creation of new ones.

With cybercrime continuing to evolve and become more sophisticated, it is up to everyone to do their part in staying safe online.

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