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Anti-Detection Tool Users Targeted in International Police Operation

Six individuals have been arrested and dozens have been interviewed as part of an international law enforcement operation targeting the users of two tools designed to help malware evade detection by security software, Europol announced on Wednesday.

The operation, codenamed Neuland, was led by Germany’s Kriminalinspektion Mayen and supported by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3).

The first phase of this action took place in April 2016 and it targeted the operators of counter antivirus and crypter services, and their Germany-based customers. One 22-year-old individual was arrested and 170 other suspects from all regions of Germany had their homes and offices searched. Searches were also carried out at the time in France, the Netherlands and Canada.

Hundreds of desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and storage devices were seized in the first part of the campaign. German authorities said at the time that the average age of the suspects was 23.

The second phase of the operation, announced by Europol on Wednesday, took place last week and it targeted the international customers of the same two anti-malware detection services. Police in Cyprus, Norway, the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom arrested six people and questioned 36 other suspects. Officers searched 20 houses and seized a large number of devices.

At around the time of the first phase of the law enforcement operation, a report from Dell SecureWorks on underground hacker markets revealed that the price of crypters, which provide a layer of defense for the malicious core of malware, had reached $80-$440, a significant increase from 2014, when they had been sold for only up to $150.

Two individuals suspected of running similar services were also targeted by law enforcement in the United Kingdom in November 2015. A man and a woman believed to be the operators of a counter antivirus service called and a crypter named Cryptex Reborn were arrested.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.