The English-language hacker platform raidforums.com was down for a week due to unknown causes, prompting rumors on social media of a breach by law enforcement authorities. If true, it could make life difficult for less skilled cybercriminals – so called ‘script kiddies’ who typically use someone else’s tools and techniques to commit crimes online.
The self-styled “supreme leader” of the forum, Omnipotent, has been offline since February 12, and it is thought that the forum may have been compromised by a transnational law enforcement agency such as Europol or the FBI.
“Looks like Raid Forums are having some issues,” security analyst CyberKnow posted on Twitter. “Which has a few cybercriminals concerned – it’s one of the easiest and most popular Deep Web forums, due in part to it being run in English.”
Users trying to access the website last week were met with an automated message declaring: “MyBB has experienced an internal SQL error and cannot continue.” Another Twitter user posted on Sunday: “A new version of Raid Forums has just gone live but [it] does not look fully functional yet.”
Fears of sting operation
This is not the first time the forum has experienced such difficulties. In October the site was temporarily suspended, which it claimed was due to government interference.
This time around, some are expressing fears that the authorities might have found a way to swipe user data from Raidforums while it was down. If true, this would mark a serious turning of the tables on the less expert members of the cybercrime community, who tend to gravitate towards the Clearweb-based forum because of its ease of access.
“Raid Forums will be back in days,” another Twitter user posted on February 12, but then added: “Is this an Omnipotent burner or a honeypot? Guess time will tell.”
A honeypot is a term used to describe when hackers impersonate a legitimate website or forum to harvest users’ details. It is thought that law enforcement agencies could possibly use this technique against malicious hackers themselves, shutting down a forum and setting up a decoy version in its place to lure them into sharing vital information.
The FBI caught criminals in this way in 2021, when it clandestinely bought a supposedly fully encrypted phone, the Pixel 4a, and used its hack-proof messaging app to spy on its users – criminals who thought their communications were safe from prying eyes. More than 12,000 of these “Anom” Pixel handsets were sold to criminals around the world, allowing the bureau to read millions of messages detailing illegal activities. This led to more than 800 arrests in the US, Europe, and Australia, mostly connected to the narcotics trade.
On February 14 CyberNews reached out to the FBI to ask if it was involved in the difficulties experienced by raidforums.com, but the bureau declined to comment.
Possible knock-on effects
As yet, there is no solid evidence to suggest that this has happened to raidforums.com, and the Twitter community appears to be divided on the issue.
“Raid forums is back – it's missing a few features but seems to be working,” said another Tweet. “We can assume the Mountain Lion has been defeated.”
But other commenters believe that the breach – if such it was – has had a lasting impact on some cybercriminal groups.
Another tweet stated that Against The West – which recently claimed to have compromised several high-profile targets including Volkswagen China – had “called time on their campaign.” It added: “Speaking with them recently, it seems a few internal issues, as well as the downtime with Raid Forums, have triggered a shutdown.”
In a tweet of its own, Against The West confirmed it was disbanding.
“Having to move platforms because our main [one] is down is challenging,” it said. “We may come back again in future, but it will most likely be under a different name.”
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