"This is not what I would call a high-level criminal forum," he said.
He speculated that newcomers to hacking might be impressed with the Darkode name, or with the fact that the forum is supposed to be by invitation only.
But experienced hackers aren't buying it.
"But the forum has lost so much trust that they are not capable of bringing in people," he said.
"That's the problem they're having -- trust. They're able to bring some people in from HackForum because the people there are not very senior in terms of criminality. So, for them, Darkode is still an elite forum and it's a Holy Grail to join that forum. People who don't know the whole story. But the more senior people won't join again. They've moved on to different forums, which are more secure."
As a result, traffic to the new Darkode forum is low, and the discussions are very low-level and innocuous.
On the old Darkode, members were coding botnets, discussing banking Trojans, credit cards, exploit kits, and new malware.
On the new site, members discuss computer security in general, where to get hosting, how to configure systems.
"There's no discussion of banking Trojans, RATs or malware," he said. "I was really surprised by the content itself. It was really poor, nothing to make it appealing or interesting. There's no way for anyone to sell anything or buy anything. Nothing really interesting stood out."
Damballa gave the new Darkode forum an "F" grade for security.
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