PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Investigators shut down an online marketplace where cybercriminals bought and sold hacked databases, malicious software and other products that could cripple or steal information from computer systems, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Until this morning, the big announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI was kept under wraps and was top-secret.

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Now, the FBI says it has smashed the hornet’s nest and they are rounding up the hornets.

The department had been working on the case for the last two years. It all came to a head within the last 24 hours with the cooperation of law-enforcement and 20 countries around the world.

It was called Operation Shrouded Horizon. The criminal online hacking forum was called Darkode.

Darkode, was the largest-known English-language malware forum in the world, authorities said

“Darkode first appeared in 2008. It was a crime bazaar for hackers. Of the roughly 800 criminal Internet forums worldwide, Darkode represented one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the United States and around the world,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said. “Through this operation, we have dismantled a cyber-hornet’s nest of criminal hackers, which was believed by many to be impenetrable, including believed to be impenetrable by the hackers themselves.”

The site, which had roughly 250 to 300 active members, was seized and shut down by authorities Tuesday as most of the arrests were being made and search warrants were being executed.

The investigation and takedown was based in Pittsburgh. So far, 70 Darkode members and their associates have been arrested, charged or are being sought after.

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“Darkode members have been charged here with using Facebook spreaders to create botnets which they would auction off malware to infect cell phones and take victims’ personal information and bulletproof servers to infect thousands of computers to send millions of fraudulent spam text messages,” Hickton said.

Of those 70 people allegedly involved, 12 are in the United States. Additionally, 20-year-old Morgan Culberton, also known as Android, is from Pittsburgh.

Hackers couldn’t just log onto the site. They had to be vouched for or nominated by current members to be able to buy, sell or solicit illegal wares or services on the site, authorities said.

Some of the targets were responsible for hacking into Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live services last year around Christmas, authorities said.

Those arrested or searched live in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Bosniz-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Macedonia, Nigeria, Romania, Serbia and Sweden. There are victims in all of those countries, and others, authorities said.

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