Hackers take stand against Portuguese Justice “intent on punishing whistleblower”

21-year-old Portuguese ‘hacker’ arrested in UK

… believed to be ‘mastermind’ behind one of “most popular hacking forums in existence”

21-year-old Portuguese ‘hacker’ Diogo Santos Coelho is currently ‘in UK custody’ after two years’ of a global investigation targeting RaidForums – one of the most popular hacking forums in existence.

According to reports, RaidForums was “used by cybercriminals to primarily buy and sell stolen databases”.

When it was finally ‘closed down’ it was found to be in possession of the United States’ database of electors – which, says Correio da Manhã today, “opens the door to Diogo Santos Coelho having participated in the alleged rigging of the presidential elections in 2016 and 2020”.

Right now, the young man, who was arrested in Croydon, risks being extradited to the United States on charges of conspiracy, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

A statement by US justice department assistant attorney general Kenneth Polite Jr said the takedown of this online market for the resale of hacked or stolen data disrupts one of the major ways cyber criminals profit from the large-scale theft of sensitive personal and financial information”.

Before the forum was shutdown, hundreds of databases of stolen data containing more than 10 billion unique records for individuals had been offered for sale, the Department of Justice has said

A statement from Europol, explains the ‘global enforcement action’, dubbed Operation Tourniquet, saw the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), US Justice Department, Europol and Portuguese, Swedish, and Romanian police work together through the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce. 

Coelho has been accused of running the forum, which entailed establishing a membership scheme where users of the site could pay for access to chatrooms that allowed the exchange of links, photographs, and data linked to cyber-crime.

Although he was arrested in the UK, it is understood the young hacker also operated out of a holiday home in Portugal, from which “material was apprehended”, says Correio da Manhã.

Taking a lot of kudos for this arrest – which also saw two alleged colleagues of the young Portuguese arrested – the United States department of Justice has stressed that “online anonymity was not able to protect the defendant in this case from prosecution, and it will not protect other online criminals either.

“The seizure of the RaidForums website – which facilitated the sale of stolen data from millions of people throughout the world – and the charges against the marketplace’s administrator are a testament to the strength of the FBI’s international partnerships,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Cybercrime transcends borders, which is why the FBI is committed to working with our partners to bring cybercriminals to justice – no matter where in the world they live or behind what device they try to hide.”

This is the second high-profile arrest recently of young computer hackers connected to Portugal.

Only last month a 16-year-old believed to have been key in the Lapsus$ gang that caused cyber-mayhem in Portugal at the beginning of the year was ‘arrested’.

He has since been charged by City of London police with “unauthorised access to a computer with intent to impair the reliability of data, fraud by false representation, unauthorised access to a computer with intent to hinder access to data and causing a computer to perform a function to secure unauthorised access to a program”.

The youngster along with a slightly older alleged ‘partner in crime’ has been released on conditional bail ahead of a further hearing at Southwark Crown Court on April 29.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com