The operator of Joker’s Stash, the internet’s largest marketplace for stolen payment card data, has announced plans to shut the service down permanently and go into “retirement”.
In a message posted on Joker’s Stash itself as well as a number of other widely used “dark web” marketplaces, the site’s administrator said the service would shut down as of 15 February.
“Unfortunately, or fortunately – nothing lasts forever. It’s time for us to leave forever,” the post reads.
The administrator also advised other “cyber-gangsters” not to “lose themselves in the pursuit of easy money”.
“Even all the money in the world will never make you happy and that all the most truly valuable things in this life are free,” wrote the administrator, who goes by the handle “JokerStash”.
Security researchers said that while Joker’s Stash is the biggest marketplace of its kind, its disappearance is unlikely to have a noticeable effect on the market for stolen card data.
The high-profile marketplace relied on a “robust” network of criminal vendors who used it to offer stolen records, said fraud research firm Gemini Advisory in a research note.
“Gemini assesses with a high level of confidence that these vendors are very likely to fully transition to other large, top-tier dark web marketplaces,” the company wrote.
Joker’s Stash has been operating since 2014, making it one of the oldest known card theft marketplaces.
Unlike most sites of its kind, which tend to keep a low profile, Joker’s Stash advertised data dumps in advance and used the media publicity around major data breaches to attract buyers.
Such tactics helped the site become the biggest of its kind, and Gemini estimates it generated more than $1 billion (£730m) in illicit revenues in recent years, making its operator “among the wealthiest cybercriminals”.
The recent spike in the value of Bitcoin, which is used for transactions on the site, is likely to have multiplied JokerStash’s fortune, which may have contributed to the decision to shut the site down.
However, the quality of the stolen data posted on the site also showed a “severe decline” over the past six months, leading to customer complaints, Gemini said.
The administrator blamed a disruption of the marketplace’s activities in October on a stay of more than one week in hospital after allegedly contracting Covid-19.
Last month the FBI and Interpol seized four domains operated by the marketplace, temporarily disrupting operations.
The move may have put Joker’s Stash on notice that it could soon be hit by a more effective law-enforcement action.
However, Gemini said the cause of the shutdown “remains unclear”.
The researchers noted that even the shutdown of the notorious Silk Road marketplace had “very little impact on the overall dark web black market”.
“The underground payment card economy is thus likely to remain largely unaffected by this shutdown,” Gemini stated.
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