Europol arrests six in counter antivirus crackdown

A coordinated cybercrime crackdown in six European nations last week ended with the arrest of six people suspected of buying counter anti-virus and crypter services. These cybercriminal tools are typically used to thwart antimalware solutions’ detection mechanisms by testing and clouding of malware samples.

The operation, codenamed Neuland, took place between June 5 and June 9 and swept Germany, Cyprus, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Led by Germany’s Kriminalinspektion Mayen, the action was aided by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT).

The first phase targeted the creators of the counter anti-virus and a crypter service, along with two German buyers, in what Europol calls “a large-scale coordinated action in all state criminal police offices in Germany.”

The second phase targeted only buyers. Police officers in Cyprus, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom coordinated the search of 20 houses, interviewed 42 people, and arrested six suspects while confiscating “a large number of devices,” according to the press release.

“Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre provided extensive support for secure information exchange, the preparation of the target packages per country, and in-depth malware analysis,” the Europol said.

“Several operational coordination meetings and conference calls were also organised to facilitate operational coordination and deconfliction. This case is an excellent example of how local police forces can benefit from cooperating with Europol to execute impactful nationwide and international actions against cybercriminals.”

The operation took place amid increasing misuse of otherwise legitimate anonymity and encryption tools and services, changing their original purpose into illegal activities. With services offered to criminals exclusively online, Europol has filed this one under Crime-as-a-Service.

In its Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) last year, Europol warned that more and more young individuals are choosing a life of online crime. Things haven’t changed despite the law enforcement agency’s strong message, as the average age of the suspects in the first phase of the operation was only 23.

About the author


Filip is an experienced writer with over a decade of practice in the technology realm. He has covered a wide range of topics in such industries as gaming, software, hardware and cyber-security, and has worked in various B2B and B2C marketing roles. Filip currently serves as Information Security Analyst with Bitdefender.