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VPNLabs taken down by joint operation involving 10 countries

Law enforcement authorities from 10 countries coordinated by Europol took down VPNLab.net on January 17. The VPN service provider shielded communications and internet access used by cybercriminals to help hide their tracks, including ransomware and malware deployments.

The operation involved simultaneous actions in Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Latvia, Ukraine, the United States and the United Kingdom. The operation resulted in authorities seizing or disrupting all 15 VPNLab’s servers. 

The service is no longer available, and VPNLab’s website now shows a “this domain has been seized” message. This particular action was led by the Central Criminal Office of the Hannover Police Department in Germany under the EMPACT security framework objective “Cybercrime- Attacks Against Information Systems”.

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Being far too safe has its costs

VPNLabs was one of the oldest and most trustworthy VPN providing services based on OpenVPN and 2048-bit encryption offering its service for as low as $60 per year.

As an added security measure, the service also offered a double VPN. Double VPN is an advanced feature that routes a user’s internet traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, adding another layer of protection by encrypting user data twice. This is also called VPN server chaining. 

According to Europol’s report, multiple investigations revealed that cybercriminals were using VPNLabs to cover up after them and even using the service in setting up infrastructure, communications, and even deploying ransomware. VPNLabs was also caught being advertised on the dark web. 

VPNLabs taken down by joint operation involving 10 countries
The seized VPNLabs homepage | Source: VPNLabs

The investigation has identified over one hundred businesses at risk of being cyberattacked, with law enforcement agencies working directly with them to mitigate any possible risks. 

The information exchange was facilitated in the framework of the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT), and Europol’s European Cybercrime Center (EC3) provided support through its Analysis project ‘CYBORG’ organising over 60 meetings and three in-person workshops in addition to providing analytical and forensic support. 

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