Mar 21, 2023 - Technology

Data breach leak site BreachForums shuts down

Illustration of a pair of handcuffs on 0 and 1 binary code numbers.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of the most popular dark-web data breach forums appears to be shutting down after federal agents arrested its top administrator last week.

Driving the news: The new administrator of the forum, who goes by the handle "Baphomet," said Tuesday they plan to shut down BreachForums, noting that "it's the only safe decision."

  • Last week, FBI agents arrested Conor Brian Fitzpatrick in Peekskill, New York, for one count of "conspiracy to solicit individuals with the purpose of selling unauthorized access devices," according to an affidavit from an agent.
  • During the arrest, Fitzpatrick allegedly admitted to running BreachForums and said he used the alias "Pompompurin," per the affidavit. Bloomberg first reported on the arrest.

Why it matters: The arrest and subsequent shutdown of the forum would mark another win for law enforcement amid a series of high-profile cybercrime arrests and takedowns.

The big picture: BreachForums, a popular dark-web forum, has been at the center of several major incidents, including this month's breach of DC Health Link.

  • On the forum, malicious hackers can buy and sell stolen data from recent data breaches. Earlier this month, a hacker was selling files on the forum allegedly stolen from DC Health Link, including personal information belonging to lawmakers and congressional staff.
  • Pompompurin has also claimed responsibility for a November 2021 incident exploiting a flaw in the FBI's email system.

The intrigue: Originally, Baphomet had planned to move BreachForums to different infrastructure, but a message to users indicates they switched course after learning that federal officials have access to Pompompurin's computer.

  • Baphomet claims someone was able to log in to one of the forum's servers on Sunday. "Unfortunately, this likely leads to the conclusion that someone has access to Pom's machine," they wrote.

What's next: Fitzpatrick is scheduled to make an appearance in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday, according to court documents.

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