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Potential Impact of ‘FIN7’ Arrests on Stolen Payment Card Ecosystem

Kathleen Weinberger

Deep & Dark Web (DDW) chatter following the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement of indictments against three members of the cybercrime group FIN7 provides new insight into the group’s operations and role within the stolen payment card ecosystem.

Since the indictment was made public on Aug. 1, much of the DDW chatter surrounding it has focused on the fate of Joker’s Stash, a popular DDW card shop and longtime fixture of the stolen payment card ecosystem. As the shop had been previously linked to FIN7, also known by some as Carbanak, some threat actors have expressed concern that the arrests of three key members of the group could slow business for Joker’s Stash.

For example, on Aug. 2, on a Russian-language carding forum, a threat actor questioned the operator of Joker’s Stash about whether the FIN7 arrests would adversely affect the shop’s business. The operator responded that their account and shop were still operational and that they had not been arrested.

Flashpoint analysts assess that Joker’s Stash likely retains multiple sources of compromised card information that will enable it to continue operations for the time being. The shop has released data from several breaches since the arrests were ostensibly made, including three major breaches in September. At least some of the most recent breaches have been attributed to the MageCart group. The shop does not appear to have decreased its output of available payment cards.

While Joker’s Stash remains in business despite the FIN7 arrests, additional DDW chatter suggests that the arrests may be connected to the closure of HTA, another major card shop that went of business earlier this year. One threat actor’s post on Aug. 3 on a top-tier Russian-language fraud forum reads as follows:

“It gone my friends, forget it all, everything that’s out in public that you see, forget about hta read the latest news, those who supplied hta with their material were picked up in Europe—FIN7

I don’t envy them! This is the beginning of an interesting era, like what we had when we lost the Liberty Reserve payment system, that’s the new reality. Forgive me for being the bearer of such news!”

HTA had been a well-respected and exclusive shop in the Russian-language DDW since at least 2015 and had specialized primarily in cards and dumps from the U.S. since at least fall of 2017. Flashpoint analysts observed frequent forum posts from threat actors seeking access to HTA prior to its closure; those who had access sometimes sold sub-accounts for as much as $5,000 USD.

Based on the closure of HTA, it appears that the arrests of key FIN7 members may impact the group’s ability to supply stolen payment card information, at least in the short term. Flashpoint will continue to monitor for any indications that FIN7 is continuing its operations in spite of these arrests.

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About the author: Kathleen Weinberger

Kathleen Weinberger

Kathleen Weinberger is an intelligence analyst at Flashpoint, where she primarily covers the Russian cybercriminal underground. Previously, Kathleen worked as a Research Assistant with the Institute for the Study of War and as an intern for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. In these roles, she applied her Russian language skills to research projects on Russian surface-to-air missile systems, military deployments, and submarine capability development. She earned her bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Russian Studies from the University of St. Andrews, and she holds a master’s degree in Eurasian studies from the University of Oxford.

About the author: Roman Sannikov

Roman Sannikov

Roman Sannikov is the Director of European Research & Analysis at Flashpoint, where he specializes in leveraging intelligence derived from Russian-language communities within the Deep & Dark Web to help organizations combat cybercrime and mitigate risk. A fluent Russian speaker, Roman has spent nearly two decades studying cybercriminal activity within the Russian underground and has extensive experience working as both a translator and cyber intelligence analyst in the public and private sectors. During his 21-year career with the FBI, Roman served as a translator for numerous major cyber cases involving Russian-speaking actors. He has also had the privilege of interpreting for several high-profile individuals, including former FBI Director Robert Mueller and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Most recently, Roman supported Russian-language data collection and intelligence reporting as a Senior Intelligence Analyst at CrowdStrike. He holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Russian from the University of Albany.