"Darkode represented one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world and was the most sophisticated English-speaking forum for criminal computer hackers in the world," US Attorney David Hickton said.
The FBI covertly infiltrated the invitation-only website – which operated under password protections and had about 300 members – in an operation known as Shrouded Horizon, according to the bureau's statement on the takedown.
For nearly two years, agents gathered intelligence and collected evidence primarily against those "responsible for developing, distributing, facilitating, and supporting the most egregious and complex cybercriminal schemes."
The FBI said the crackdown includes arrests in 20 countries and indictments for 70 individuals, including 12 in the US, from Wisconsin to Louisiana. Those charged are accused of conspiring to commit computer fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, among other crimes.
"The FBI has effectively smashed the hornets' nest," said Hickton, "and we are in the process of rounding up and charging the hornets."