DoubleVPN, a virtual private network service which provided a safe haven for cybercriminals, has been taken down following an international police operation.
Law enforcement agencies from Europe, the United States and Canada collaborated as part of the sting, which was led by the Dutch National Police service.
Servers where DoubleVPN had hosted content were seized in the takedown, with web domains replaced with a law enforcement splash page.
DoubleVPN has proved popular with hackers and cybercriminal elements and was heavily advertised on Russian and English-speaking cybercrime forums.
The service was frequently used to mask the location and identities of ransomware operators and phishing fraudsters, with the cheapest VPN-connection offered costing as little as €22.
DoubleVPN claimed to provide high levels of anonymity by offering single, double, triple and even quadruple VPN-connections to its clients.
Law enforcement officials said the service was being used to compromise networks “all around the world”.
Commenting on the operation, the leading Dutch Public Prosecutor, Ms Wieteke Koorn, said: “This criminal investigation concerns perpetrators who think they can remain anonymous, while facilitating large-scale cybercrime operations.
“By taking legal action, including the special investigatory power for digital intrusion, we want to make it very clear there cannot be any safe havens for these kind of criminals.
“Their criminal acts damage the digitalised society and erode the trust of citizens and companies in digital technologies, therefore their behaviour has to be stopped.”
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Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) supported the investigation from the onset, bringing together all the involved countries to establish a joint strategy.
Edvardas Šileris Head of EC3, commented: “Law enforcement is most effective when working together and today’s announcement sends a strong message to the criminals using such services: the golden age of criminal VPNs is over.
“Together with our international partners, we are committed to getting this message across loud and clear.”