Threat Spotlight: Top Illicit Sources to Monitor in 2023

Updated: 01.18.2023
Reading Time: 6 minutes
A navy background with the white text "Top Illicit Sources to Monitor in 2023"

Executive Overview

The top illicit communities to monitor this year are a mix of dark web forums, markets/autoshops, and illicit communities across the instant messaging app Telegram. Most of them had previously existed, and are more recently gaining traction. 

A comprehensive cyber threat intelligence strategy includes following a wide range of illicit sources to best understand how to appropriately monitor the external threats to your organization. 

As threat actors shift in where they gather, stay up to date with the top illicit communities to keep a close watch on.

1. Russian Market

Screenshot of the Russian Market stealer logs page, which is on a dark navy background. There are multiple search options at the top of the homescreen with a number of listings below it from different countries.
Screenshot of the Russian Market stealer logs page, which shows various listings from different countries.

Russian Market is a dark web autoshop that sells stealer logs, which include stolen stored web browser information and some device details. It’s a top infected device market to monitor along with Genesis Market (included below). In a study completed in June 2022 on the stealer malware ecosystem, Russian Market hosted about 2.7 million logs available for sale with about 40,000 new bots for sale that week.

These stealer logs are like a vault of information about the victims. Since they can show saved logins and PII, someone viewing them could make guesses on the general area they live in (maybe even home address), their job, their birthdays, and the places that they often visit. Credential leaks on their own can already be terrifying, especially when a threat actor is skilled at social engineering tactics. However, with stealer logs, malicious actors can dig much deeper into someone’s life or into an organization. The price tag for all of this information is surprisingly low, at about $10 per stealer log.

2. Genesis Market

Screenshot of the Genesis Market homepage, which is on a white background. The screen shows available bots from around the world, with a dashboard bar on the left.
Screenshot of the Genesis Market homepage, which shows various listings from around the world.

Genesis Market is similar to Russian Market. However, it operates on the clear web, and specializes in selling browser fingerprints. In an analysis completed in June 2022 on the stealer malware ecosystem, Genesis Market had about 400,000 bots for sale with about 1,600 new bots for sale that week. 

The stealer logs have a greater range in cost than on Russian Market, ranging from about less than a dollar to a little over $170. 

When malicious actors purchase a bot on Genesis Market, they can also gain access to detailed guides on how to use the purchased bot fingerprints.

3. Telegram

Screenshot of Telegram with the Telegram Tips on the right side of the screen demonstrating how to send messages with the left side of the screen.
There are countless numbers of illicit Telegram channels that threat actors use to sell leaked credentials and more.

Dark web forums used to be the go-to destination for threat actors, but they’re moving more to instant messaging platforms like Telegram. Unlike dark web sources that are intensely monitored by various law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity teams, these platforms are more appealing to use because:

  • The platform is more reliable than a forum that often changes hosting systems
  • Strict privacy policies establish a sense of safety (whether that feeling is accurate or not)
  • Some channels have the “disappearing messages” setting that can delete messages after a certain amount of time, like in 24 hours
  • The interactions can feel “less permanent,” as with the rapid flow of messages, even existing messages can seem to get washed away and disappear, even if they still technically exist

4. Stealer Logs

Screenshot with the title “Free Logs” with a crown emoji at the top with descriptions about pricing for logs. The background is dark navy and black with lighter blue and white text and buttons.
Stealer log advertisement that includes the pricing and payment methods for a subscription.

Stealer logs are the result of stealer malware infecting devices to steal information stored on the victim’s web browser. With the forms, logins, cookies, and credentials from the victim’s browser, threat actors can impersonate their victim to gain access to their accounts, usually for financial gain.


Curious about the lifecycle of a stealer malware attack? Learn the details in our new report: Dissecting the Dark Web Stealer Malware Lifecycle with the MITRE ATT&CK Framework.

5. Exploit.in

Screenshot of forum with the title “Exploit.in” in the top left. The rest of the webpage shares a description about the site and forum, various projects, and sections about posts about hacking.
This snippet of the Exploit.in forum homepage screenshot shows an “About” section and different categories for posts about hacking.

Exploit.in is a dark web forum featuring a robust auction system. The dominant language used on the forum is Russian. Some content is hidden behind participatory walls that threat actors can gain more access to by establishing a greater reputation through sharing and buying. 

Some forum users are “initial access brokers” and sell information about organizations’ VPNs or administrative powers to provide access into those companies’ environments, through the forum’s auction system. Other malicious actors can bid either in private messages (to keep their usernames private) or in the thread directly. 

Threat actors also share proof of concept for exploits, malware samples, and various hacking techniques on this forum.

6. Cracked.io

Screenshot of forum with the title “Cracked.io” in the top middle. The rest of the homepage has announcements and other sections for interactions. The background is black with blue bars for different sections.
The Cracked.io homepage hosts sections like “Announcements” and other categories for engagement.

Cracked.io is a forum with a strong focus on sharing credential leaks. Threat actors sell and share combo lists often from breaches that are initially shared elsewhere on the dark web, as well as leaked databases and various breaches.

Resharing content from other forums is common, which contributes to a large volume of posts in this forum.

7. XSS.is

Screenshot of forum with the title “XSS.is” in the top left. The rest of the homepage has different sections labeled under “Underground.” The background is white.
This snippet of the XSS.is forum homepage hosts different sections under the label of “Underground.”

XSS.is is a Russian-language dominated forum similar to Exploit.in. Forum users can build reputation points through the forum’s system or pay for a VIP account that bypasses this system. Malicious actors who frequently post relevant content can get more likes on their posts which provides them greater access to various threads. 

This is a pretty technical forum with posts about new hacking tools, proofs of concept, red teaming tools, and more. A lot of leaks originate here.

8. Breached Forums

Screenshot of forum homepage, which has mostly a black background. There are different sections under the navy General tab including “Announcements,” “Introductions,” “World News” and more.
The Breached forum homepage hosts different sections under the label of “General” including “Announcements,” “Introductions,” “World News” and more.

Pompompurin, a prominent member of RaidForums, which was shut down by law enforcement in January 2022, launched Breached Forums just a few months later, in March 2022. This forum quickly gained notoriety as the central place to share leaks and breaches. On this forum, threat actors can sell the results of exploited systems.

9. ASAP Market

Screenshot of ASAP Market forum homepage, which has mostly a black background. There are blurred pictures of featured listings in the middle with a menu bar on the left of categories of items to purchase.
The ASAP Market homepage shows featured listings and categories of items marketplace users can buy.

ASAP Market is one of the biggest dark web markets; facilitating the sale of drugs, fraud-related items, and more. This is an international market, but buyers can check where items are shipped from in order to purchase local items. This way, buyers can avoid customs checking packages that arrive from outside of the country.

10. We the North

Screenshot of We the North homepage, which has mostly a white background. There are blurred pictures of featured listings in the middle with a menu bar on the left of categories of items to purchase like fraud, drugs & chemicals, digital products, and more.
This snippet of the We the North homepage shows pictures of featured listings and categories of items marketplace users can buy.

We The North is a Canadian exclusive dark web marketplace; meaning products may only ship to and from Canada. We The North rose in popularity after the downfall of a previous Canadian exclusive marketplace, Canadian HQ. Just like its predecessor, We The North hosts a wide array of items for sale, with a strong offering of digital items, especially related to financial fraud.

How Flare Can Help

Though these top illicit sources should be included in your organization’s monitoring approach, they are not the only communities to keep track of. Make sure to follow all sources relevant to the threats your organization faces or is likely to face. 

Interested in what monitoring illicit sources with Flare could look like? Try out our free trial option or book a demo to get your questions answered.

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Eric Clay

Marketing Director

Author Description: Eric Clay has a strong cybersecurity background and significant experience building marketing approaches for SaaS companies. Clay began their career at a B2B marketing agency as an outside consultant for inbound lead gen processes in the cybersecurity and SaaS space and later became CMO at two cybersecurity startups. As Flare’s Marketing Director, Clay works with our marketing team to set and improve marketing strategies and approaches.