FBI and Europol seize VPN accused of supporting 'criminal underworld'

The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan has detailed an international law enforcement effort called 'Operation Nova' that targeted a 'bulletproof' VPN service accused of supporting criminals. The work was a joint effort between the FBI, Europol, and other agencies with the German Reutlingen Police Headquarters coordinating the operation.

Under Operation Nova, the law enforcement agencies worked together on the takedown; it targeted an operating accused of providing 'bulletproof hosting services' for criminals. Three domain names were seized as part of the operation, including 'insorg.org,' 'safe-inet.com,' and 'safe-inet.net.' These sites now present a notice that they've been seized by law enforcement.

Among other things, the DOJ describes 'bulletproof hosting services' as ones that:

...may include ignoring or fabricating excuses in response to abuse complaints made by their customer's victims; moving their customer accounts and/or data from one IP address, server, or country to another to help them evade detection; and not maintaining logs (so that none are available for review by law enforcement). By providing these services, the bulletproof hosts knowingly support the criminal activities of their clients and become coconspirators in criminal schemes.

Speaking of Operation Nova, officials describe the criminal activity that allegedly took place on the network as being things like taking over accounts, ransomware, e-skimming data breaches, and spearphishing. Support was reportedly offered 'at a high price to the criminal underworld' in both English and Russian.

International law enforcement agencies shut down servers related to the seized domains, as did US authorities related to the servers located in the United States.