International police shut down 15 server infrastructures as part of VPNLab.net's takedown

VPN service used by crims to support ransomware attacks and other illicit activity


Some 15 server infrastructures used by crims to prepare ransomware attacks were seized by cops yesterday as part of an international sting to take down VPNLab.net.

The VPN provider's service gave users "shielded communications and internet access" that was used in "support of serious criminals acts such as ransomware deployment and other cybercrime activities," Europol said today.

The raids were led by Central Criminal Office of the Hanover Police Department in Germany under the the EMPACT security framework objective of Cybercrime - Attacks Against Information Systems.

Police action also took place in the Netherlands, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Latvia, Ukraine, the US and the UK, the latter being initiated by the National Crime Agency to yank the local node of the network offline.

Europol set its sights on VPNLab.net after multiple other investigations lifted the lid on the criminals using the service to control botnets and distribute malware. In other instances, the VPN service was used to set-up infrastructure and comms that underpinned ransomware campaigns, as well as the deployment of the bad stuff.

More than 100 businesses were identified as being at risk of attack and the cops are working with these "potential victims to mitigate their exposure", Europol said.

Web domains were yesterday replaced with a law enforcement splash page to confirm the network was down and out.

"The actions carried out under this investigation make clear that criminals are running out of ways to hide their tracks online," said a triumphant Edvardas Šileris, head of Europol's European Cyber Crime Centre. "Each investigation we undertake informs the next, and the information gained on potential victims means we may have pre-empted several serious cyberattacks and data breaches."

Volker Kluwe, chief of Hanover Police Department, said: "One important aspect of this action is also to show that, if service providers support illegal action and do not provide any information on legal requests from law enforcement authorities, that these are not bulletproof.

"This operation shows the result of an effective cooperation of international law enforcement agencies, which makes it possible to shut down a global network and destroy such brands."

Founded in 2008, LabVPN offers virtual private network services via the Dark Web based on OpenVPN tech and a 2048-bit encryption, starting from $60 per year.

John Denley, deputy director of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit, said in a statement that crims thought they could use LabVPN to "operate with impunity, and remain under the radar of law enforcement.

"This operation shows they were wrong and that there is no hiding place from the combined power of global law enforcement when it comes to taking down illegal IT infrastructure. This included the NCA switching off servers which were being hosted in the UK." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Lenovo halves its ThinkPad workstation range
    Two becomes one as ThinkPad P16 stands alone and HX replaces mobile Xeon

    Lenovo has halved its range of portable workstations.

    The Chinese PC giant this week announced the ThinkPad P16. The loved-by-some ThinkPad P15 and P17 are to be retired, The Register has confirmed.

    The P16 machine runs Intel 12th Gen HX CPUs, but only up to the i7 models – so maxes out at 14 cores and 4.8GHz clock speed. The laptop is certified to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and can ship with that, Ubuntu, and Windows 11 or 10. The latter is pre-installed as a downgrade right under Windows 11.

    Continue reading
  • US won’t prosecute ‘good faith’ security researchers under CFAA
    Well, that clears things up? Maybe not.

    The US Justice Department has directed prosecutors not to charge "good-faith security researchers" with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) if their reasons for hacking are ethical — things like bug hunting, responsible vulnerability disclosure, or above-board penetration testing.

    Good-faith, according to the policy [PDF], means using a computer "solely for purposes of good-faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability."

    Additionally, this activity must be "carried out in a manner designed to avoid any harm to individuals or the public, and where the information derived from the activity is used primarily to promote the security or safety of the class of devices, machines, or online services to which the accessed computer belongs, or those who use such devices, machines, or online services."

    Continue reading
  • Intel plans immersion lab to chill its power-hungry chips
    AI chips are sucking down 600W+ and the solution could be to drown them.

    Intel this week unveiled a $700 million sustainability initiative to try innovative liquid and immersion cooling technologies to the datacenter.

    The project will see Intel construct a 200,000-square-foot "mega lab" approximately 20 miles west of Portland at its Hillsboro campus, where the chipmaker will qualify, test, and demo its expansive — and power hungry — datacenter portfolio using a variety of cooling tech.

    Alongside the lab, the x86 giant unveiled an open reference design for immersion cooling systems for its chips that is being developed by Intel Taiwan. The chip giant is hoping to bring other Taiwanese manufacturers into the fold and it'll then be rolled out globally.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022