Darknet Marketplace “Cardplanet” Russian Mastermind Pleads Guilty

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The operator of Dark web marketplace ‘Cardplanet’, has pleaded guilty to charges against him in a U.S Court. According to an announcement by the US Department of Justice, the culprit, Russian national Aleksei Burkov, appearing before US District Judge T.S. Ellis pleaded guilty to wire and access device fraud, access device fraud and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, money laundering and identity theft.

The 29-year-old was the mastermind behind the Cardplanet, a dark web marketplace which was a haven for stolen payment card data including credit and debit cards. Reports from investigators stated that Cardplanet between 2009 and 2013 saw the sales of over 150,000 stolen debit and credit cards. These stolen cards, according to court documents, were mainly of banks and other financial institutions in the United States and their citizens. Prosecutors also stated that over $20 million in fraudulent deals were made using the stolen credit and debit cards provided on Cardplanet.

Cardplanet

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Court documents also revealed that the 29-year from St. Petersburg, from 2009 to 2013, then an IT specialist created and ran the dark web market place himself, providing access to a hotbed of stolen payment card data. These stolen payment cards also had other private and personal information of the victims such as the account number, name of the account holder, card verification value number as well as the expiry date.

He also facilitated the buying and selling of the stolen payment card information by advertising his site on several Russian dark web marketplaces. The Russian national, however, hosted his site on a server that was located in Virginia.

Burkov also categorized and sold his stolen cards according to the additional information they came with and the place the card was issued. The price of the stolen cards ranged between $2.50 and $60 each, thus according to the level of details attached to it. The indictment also stated that the Russian national prioritized customer service above anything else, creating a ‘checker’ which validated the stolen cards upon any purchase, as well as a refund policy in case the stolen cards didn’t work, after purchase.

Court documents again showed that most of the clients of Cardplanet were cybercriminals who usually used the stolen data to make fraudulent purchases from online e-commerce and retail stores. Burkov also accepted payments mainly in Liberty Reserve or WebMoney and Western Union since cryptocurrencies were not that popular at that time. Cardplanet saw its operation shut down in 2013, followed by the arrest of Burkov, two years later at the Ben-Gurion airport, in Israel after crossing over from Egypt. After two years of going back and forth with the extradition request, the Israeli Supreme Court finally gave in and on November 11, 2019, Burkov was extradited to Virginia to face charges.

Court documents stated that Burkov, in addition to Cardplanet, ran other dark web forums for ‘elite’ criminals, this time with many other co-conspirators. According to prosecutors, one of those underground forums was called “Direct Connection” and totally operated in secret, unlike Cardplanet which was accessible through the onion domain.

Prosecutors of the case also revealed that gaining a membership with ‘Direct Connection,’ required a $5,000 down payment which served as insurance, in addition to three prospective members vouching for you and endorsing your reputation as a cybercriminal. They added that this system was designed to prevent law enforcement from gaining access to the secret underground cybercrime forum and to ensure that members of the forum honored any deals made while being members of the forum.

Newly accepted members of the underground forum could immediately request any information from other cybercriminals on where, when and how to plan several cybercrimes. Court documents stated that Direct Connection was created to allow elite cybercriminals to gather in a secure location free from the reach of law enforcement, where they would have unlimited access to other elite and trusted cybercriminals who could offer assistance in the advertisement and purchase of stolen data.

Cardplanet

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Direct Connection also had another secret forum created inside of the site where cybercriminals exchanged information and plans which included how to buy and sell stolen credit cards and how to verify social security numbers and other private details.

Prosecutors stated in court that, Russian officials had made several attempts to swap Naama Issachar, an Israeli-American citizen who was being held in Russia on drug possession charges for Burkov who was at that time detained in Israel. Reports suggest that Russian officials, before the U.S indictment against the cybercriminal was unsealed in November, wanted Burkov to be brought to his country where he was going to face a different set of criminal charges. He is scheduled for sentencing on May 8, 2020.

Source: The Register


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