Hell is no more.
The dark web online hacking forum was shut down abruptly on Wednesday by its own founder and overlord, a hacker only known as Ping. The forum gained notoriety over the last couple of months after a member dumped the personal information, including sexual preferences and secrets, of almost 4 millions members of the hookup service Adult Friend Finder.
But now, after what looks like an internal diatribe, the forum is gone. In a post titled "This is the end," Ping announced that he was shutting it down.
"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."
Ping decided to close down the forum after two members, who were also moderators, claimed to have doxed him, publishing what they claimed was Ping's real identity. One of the hackers, who goes by the name cptcrnch, contacted me on Tuesday to tell me that he had doxed Ping.
"I doxed ping last night. He was snitch."
"I doxed ping last night," he wrote to me in an email. "He was snitch."
Cptcrnch claimed that Ping was actually an individual named Dmitri Barbu, who was arrested and charged for crimes related to credit card fraud in Calgary, Canada on June 18. Barbu and another suspect are accused of scamming more than 3,000 credit card holders in Calgary, planting skimming devices at 38 gas stations around the city.
A screenshot purporting to show an encrypted chat between Ping and cptcrnch shows an apparent confession.
Cptcrnch asked Ping how he "slip up [sic] and get caught carding gas," and the hacker responds that "they" saw him "take one" and got a warrant.
"There's no reason for me to know," Cptcrnch responded, warning Ping that "that detail makes it easy to find you."
"Whatever don't tell any one," Ping finally responded, according to the screenshot.
There's no confirmation that Barbu is indeed Ping, but Ping did disappear around the time of Barbu's arrest and went missing for around two weeks, after telling me that he was worried he could get arrested.
On Hell, Ping announced his departure and the end of the forum, but also accused cptcrnch and another member, Revolt, of being the real culprits of the forum's demise. Revolt helped cptcrnch in doxing Ping, publishing his personal details, including purported passwords to Ping's email address and the Hell forum's server.
"I like to start off by saying fuck you from the bottom of my heart to cpt and revolt."
"I like to start off by saying fuck you from the bottom of my heart to cpt and revolt," Ping wrote, before denying being Barbu and even being from Calgary.
Ping did not answer my requests for comment.
Bev Robb, an independent security researcher who's been studying the Hell forum for months, followed the drama as cptcrnch and Revolt posted some of her personal details on the forum too. She told me that after the shut down Hell's members "migrated elsewhere and are at a loss as to what the next step will be."
She isn't convinced that Ping's identity has really been compromised, but it's possible that his eager for fame led him to make some mistakes and reveal too much. It's also possible, she said, that the forum was a "honeypot" since the very beginning.
Before the forum was shut down, some members responded to Ping's goodbye post."You can't give up yet! Just because of some fucking kids…" a member named c0demaker said. "In my opinion this is the #1 hacking forum on the tor network! Please don't end Hell."