Ping, the founder of infamous hacking forum on Dark Web “Hell” has finally shut it down on Wednesday
On Wednesday, Ping, founder and administrator of the dark web hacking forum “Hell” abruptly shut down the site and announced it through a goodbye post which was titled “This is the end”.
Hell, was a forum for criminal hackers, wannabe criminal hackers, scammers, federal agents and as per Ping, it could be reached only on the dark web through Tor anonymisor and other anonymising browsers. During an encrypted chat Ping told Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, from Motherboard, that “Hell is a community where criminals can share, learn and make money.”
Earlier this year, in March, a hacker known as “ROR[RG]”, with an intention of “Sharing is caring” dumped fifteen spreadsheets on a message board titled “Hacked Data” which helped Hell to gain terrific notoriety.
The spreadsheet contained personal details of four million individuals in regards to their names, ages, email addresses, location and even included their preferences of sexual partner that they were looking for. The data was hacked from one of the popular online adult hookup service known “Adult Friend Finder” which claimed to have more than 60 million members.
ROR[RG], on the other hand claimed that he had exposed the database as Adult Friend Finder had a debt with one of his friend. He also wrote in the thread wherein he had announced the breach : “This is for owing my guy $247,938.28 BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!” which has now been deleted from the thread.
Ping had then mentioned that “the forum isn’t really ‘hell’” as it does not allow drugs, violence or child pornography. He had added: “Allowing drugs would put us higher up the list for [law enforcement] plus there is a lot of money to be made through financial crime as well.”
In his goodbye post Ping said: “Maybe I will come back into this world again learning from my mistakes and rebuild an amazing community like this again but this is the last you will ever hear from Ping,” he wrote. “I am not good with goodbyes so ya and thanks to all.”
It seems two moderators as well as members doxed Ping by publishing the real identity of Hell’s owner. One of the hacker, known as cptcrnch, told the staff of Motherboard that he had doxed Ping. It seems Ping ultimately decided to close down the forum due to some internal diatribe.
In an email cptcrnch wrote: “I doxed ping last night. He was snitch.”
He further also mentioned that Ping is non other than Dmitri Barbu, who was the prime suspect in the credit card skimming scheme. Barbu and another suspect, Denys Ranyuk, both were arrested and hit with total 39 charges against them, on June 18 at Calgary, Canada. It seems the duo were involved in scamming of more than 3,000 credit card holders and had planted the skimming devices at 38 gas stations around Calgary.
The apparent confession can be seen in this screenshot which purports to show an encrypted chat held between Ping and cptcrnch.
It seems cptcrnch had asked Ping as to how he “slip up [sic] and get caught carding gas”, to this the hacker (Ping) responding stating that “they” saw him “take one” and got a warrant.
Cptcrnch responded: “There’s no reason for me to know,” at the same time warned Ping that “that detail makes it easy to find you.”
Ping responded saying:”Whatever don’t tell any one.”
Well, for now it is not yet confirmed that Barbu is indeed Ping; however it seems Ping had disappeared for two weeks during the time when Barbu was arrested and he had also told cptcrnch that he was worried that he might get arrested.
Cptcrnch also mentioned that Ping never gave any details about himself except that he was from Canada, though he was not born there. Calgary police also declined to comment.
Ping, in his post on Hell’s shut down, announced his departure and also accused cptcrnch and Revolt, another member of Hell and held them responsible for the abrupt demise of the forum. Revolt was the one who helped cptcrnch to doxe Ping by publishing his personal details including the purported passwords to Ping’s email address as well the server of Hell forum.
In the post Ping mentioned that he did not belong to Calgary and also denied that he was Barbu. He then wrote: “I like to start off by saying fuck you from the bottom of my heart to cpt and revolt.”
When Motherboard correspondent inquired, Ping did not respond and did not give any comment.
At the same time, an independent security researcher, Bev Robb, too was studying Hell forum for last few months as cptcrnch and Revolt had posted some of her personal details on the forum. As per Robb, it seems after the shut down of Hell, now the members have “migrated elsewhere and are at a loss as to what the next step will be.”
Robb believes that Ping’s identity has not at been compromised, though it could be a case that his urge for fame could have led him to make some mistakes and expose too much of it. However, Robb’s gut feeling is that since the beginning “Hell” forum was a “honeypot” for its owners and members.
Ping’s goodbye post also got some responses from its members before it got shut down.
A member of Hell, c0demaker said: “You can’t give up yet! Just because of some fucking kids.” He added: “In my opinion this is the #1 hacking forum on the tor network! Please don’t end Hell.”