FBI arrests: was UGNazi a target or an instrument?

‘Carding’ is the term used to describe illegal activity in stolen credit card details. This operation started in June 2010 when the FBI established its own undercover forum called ‘Carder Profit’, enabling it to monitor carding activity. During the course of the operation it was able to supply credit card providers with details on 411,000 compromised cards, leading to an estimated saving of $205m in potential card fraud.

Although both the Wall Street Journal and Krebs on Security call this a ‘sting’ operation, Ellen Davis from the US Attorney’s office told Wired that it was not, since law enforcement did not initiate any criminal activity. “All they did was set up a carding forum and then people who allegedly committed this criminal activity came to the forum,” she said.

The FBI/DoJ announcement states that there were 24 arrests: 11 arrests in the US (but lists 12 names), and that another 13 arrests “occurred in the United Kingdom (6 arrests), Bosnia (2), Bulgaria (1), Norway (1), and Germany (1),” plus 2 others. The additional US arrest suggest that the situation is fluid, and that we can expect more associated arrests in coming days.

One of the biggest ‘catches’ among the arrests is Mir Islam, aka ‘JoshTheGod’. JoshTheGod is leader of the UGNazi hacking group which claimed, almost certainly falsely, to be responsible for the recent Twitter outage. The UGNazi website has simultaneously been taken over by the FBI; and although not in the current named list of those arrested, it is believed that the remaining three core members of the group (MrOsama, Cosmo and IonCuber) have also been arrested.

Earlier this month UGNazi claimed to be affiliated to Anonymous; a claim that was rejected by Anonymous. In an official statement released to Infosecurity, Anonymous said, “Anonymous does not support or condone the actions of the Credit Card Fraudsters UGNAZI, associated with the ‘carding’ arrests announced yesterday by the FBI. UGNAZI and those affiliated to them were nothing more than common criminals who sought to use their technical knowledge to steal from ordinary citizens via their credit cards. Their decision to be associated with Anonymous was very recent when they started to become exposed [and they were seeking] support from disclosure. They were caught engaging in credit card fraud to the very end, having never acted to help others, just stealing to finance bieber hacks for self publicity.”

JoshTheGod had recently been arrested by the FBI and then released. This new arrest comes a few days after his eighteenth birthday, meaning he is no longer a minor; coincidences that have already been noted by Anonymous. It is likely that after the 2 whole years of ‘Carder Profit’ the FBI had all the evidence they needed against him. “Anonymous wonders,” the group told Infosecurity, “wether JoshTheGod’s recent arrest was in keeping with a Sabu-strategy used by the FBI which lead ultimately to the arrests made yesterday of everyone involved.”

In short, Anonymous wonders whether these arrests had as much to do with ‘turning’ JoshTheGod (with him being charged as a minor as the lure) as it did to the undercover operation itself. “It’s the FBI way,” said Anonymous, “and they always chose the leader.”

At the time of writing this report, no details on the UK arrests have been released by either the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) or the Metropolitan Police.

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