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VPN Service Used by Cybercriminals Disrupted in Global Law Enforcement Operation

A VPN service used by many cybercriminals has been disrupted in a global operation that involved law enforcement agencies in Germany, the United States, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland.

Europol reported on Tuesday that the operation targeted a service called Safe-Inet, and the U.S. Justice Department clarified that three associated domains have been seized, namely insorg.org, safe-inet.com and safe-inet.net. The domains currently display a banner informing visitors that they have been seized.

Safe-Inet domains seized

The Justice Department said the agencies involved in the operation, named Operation Nova, also shut down servers associated with the service in their respective countries.

The operators of the service provided both VPN and bulletproof hosting, which authorities say have been used by cybercriminals to target at least 250 organizations worldwide. The services were offered to both English- and Russian-speaking users, and they have been used for ransomware, payment card skimming, spear-phishing and account takeover attacks.

Europol said law enforcement agencies are now trying to identify Safe-Inet users in a number of countries.

Interestingly, the operators of Safe-Inet posted a message on Twitter, on Monday, in both English and Russian, informing users that they are aware of “the problem” and that the service will be restored in the coming days. The description of the Safe-Inet Twitter account says they have been “providing anonymity and security for 11 years.”

The news comes shortly after the FBI and Interpol seized domains associated with Joker’s Stash, a popular underground marketplace for stolen payment card data. However, in the case of Joker’s Stash, only a few domains and servers were disrupted and the service is still available.

Related: Microsoft Files Lawsuit to Seize Fake Domains Used in COVID-19-Themed BEC Attacks

Related: U.S. Seizes Domain Names Used by Iran for Disinformation

Related: Microsoft Takes Control of 99 Domains Used by Iranian Cyberspies

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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.