No Honor Among Cyber-Thieves

Patrick Howell O’Neill tells the tale of a Deep Web defector:

Before he gutted and nearly destroyed one of the most influential criminal markets on the Internet, a man using the nickname Boneless published a detailed guide on the art of disappearing. “I have some experience in this area,” he wrote, detailing how fugitives should best go about buying phony passports, dodging cops, and keeping their stories straight.

The guide was just one of many contributions Boneless made to HackBB, a popular destination on the Deep Web, a group of sites that sit hidden behind walls of encryption and anonymity. Back in 2012, the forum was a top destination for buying stolen credit cards, skimming ATMs, and hacking anything from personal computers to server hardware. And thanks to Tor’s anonymizing software, members were shielded from the ire of law enforcement around the globe. It was one of the safest and most popular places on the Deep Web to break the law.

Then one day in March, HackBB simply vanished, its databases destroyed. One user likened the events to burning a city–its library, market, bank, and entire community–to the ground. It wasn’t hard to guess who’d done it. A few days earlier, Boneless had disappeared–and with him, a serious chunk of the market’s sizable hoards of money.

Nitasha Tiku marvels at the story:

The strangest twist seems to be the staying power of Boneless’ reputation as a stand-up guy–to a point. Even OptimusCrime still believes Boneless didn’t orchestrate the heist as much as “sold his powerful administrator account to the highest bidder.” They say the greatest trick a hacker ever pulled was convincing his peers he’d sell them out rather than hack ’em himself.