Users, including those suspected of spreading ransomware via the deep web, will be subject to further investigations.
Safe-Inet, a virtual private network (VPN) service favored by cybercriminals, has been disabled as part of law enforcement measures that police hope will lead to further investigations of its users.
The Safe-Inet service has been disabled and its infrastructure has been blocked in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and the United States.
The Safe-Inet-backed servers offered bulletproof hosting, including deep web hosting, allowing fraudsters to host phishing pages, ransomware sites, and the like, while ignoring complaints, along with VPN services.
The servers were shut down, and after the Safe-Inet internet domain was hijacked as part of Operation Nova, a screen saver compiled by law enforcement agencies was released.
Peeling back the layers
The operation to destroy Safe-Inet was carried out by the German police headquarters in Reutlingen with the support of the European police organization Europol, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
Safe-Inet had been in business for over 10 years before its removal, most recently offering cybercriminals involved in ransomware, e-skimming, and other deep web violations a means of accessing their infrastructure without being tracked.
According to Europol’s announcement of the removal operation, the VPN service was marketed by vendors as “one of the best law enforcement eavesdropping tools available, offering up to five levels of anonymous VPN connections.”
Law enforcement agencies have been able to identify about 250 companies around the world whose systems were tracked using the Safe-Inet VPN service, probably as part of the intelligence activities of cybercriminals.
The affected organizations involved were warned by the police to strengthen their security as they were at high risk of a ransomware attack.
Now that Safe-Inet has become unavailable, police around the world are scrutinizing magazines in preparation for coercive action against their users.
It is not known how long the police could control the Safe-Inet service before the showdown, but Europol said in a statement that “law enforcement agencies intercepted the service itself used by criminals to evade wiretapping.”