FBI seizes popular hacker marketplace in 'Operation Cookie Monster'

Over 100 individuals in more than a dozen countries have been arrested and investigations are ongoing.
Ameya Paleja
The FBI headquarters in Pennsylvania
The FBI headquarters in Pennsylvania


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) coordinated with multiple agencies across the world to seize Genesis Market, an online marketplace that provided hackers with login information, browser fingerprints, and cookies from breached systems. The international campaign against such outlets has been dubbed "Operation Cookie Monster".

The seizure and arrest follow the FBI raiding another popular criminal forum called Breach Forums last month. The FBI arrested a 20-year man in the raid, where the forum claimed to have access to sensitive data from a breach at a health service center in the U.S. and personal information of thousands of individuals along with a few members of Congress. The forum has since been shut down.

What did Genesis Market offer?

Launched in 2018, Genesis Market was one of the most popular marketplaces for hackers on the dark web. This is part of the internet that users browse anonymously. While officials believe the marketplace is operated from Russia, it is a treasure trove of information stolen from an estimated 1.5 million computers in the world.

For hackers, Genesis Market could provide up to 80 million account credentials. However, the invite-only marketplace place went a step further and offered a "slick" interface to users while backing it up with multi-language tech support and a dashboard that could keep track of changes on compromised systems since the last visit for hackers.

FBI seizes popular hacker marketplace in 'Operation Cookie Monster'
Stock image of a hacker

Genesis listed 460,000 packages of stolen information that included passwords to social media accounts, emails as well as video-streaming websites. Additionally, it also provided hackers with information on browser fingerprints and cookies.

After signing into the account, a hacker could impersonate a user's browser without the need for two-factor verification, as if the user had logged in using their own device. Moreover, as long as Genesis had access to the victim's compromised devices, it could provide hackers with upto-the-minute data from the victim, a highly valuable service in the hacking domain.

Officials estimate that Genesis market had received over $8.7 million in cryptocurrency payments for its services and caused tens of millions of financial losses. Law enforcement agencies in 15 countries were involved in the massive operation that saw 119 people getting arrested.

There have been some arrests in the U.S. too. However, officials have not revealed further details of the individuals involved since the investigations are still ongoing.

Experts have however warned that the absence of a major player on the dark web will mean that multiple others will rush in to provide stolen data in its place.

The report contains information that appeared on CNN, The Washington Post, and Engadget.

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