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“DoubleVPN” service used by cybercriminals seized by international authorities

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A coordinated international law enforcement operation late last week resulted in the takedown of a VPN service called DoubleVPN for providing a safe haven for cybercriminals to cover their tracks.

“On 29th of June 2021, law enforcement took down DoubleVPN,” the agencies said in a seizure notice splashed on the now-defunct site.

“Law enforcement gained access to the servers of DoubleVPN and seized personal information, logs and statistics kept by DoubleVPN about all of its customers. DoubleVPN’s owners failed to provide the services they promised.”

The criminal investigation was conducted by agencies from Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, U.K., and the U.S., alongside authorities from Eurojust and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3).

DoubleVPN is said to have been heavily advertised on both Russian and English-speaking underground cybercrime forums as a means to mask the location and identities of ransomware operators and phishing fraudsters.

double vpn
A screengrab from the now defunct DoubleVPN website, showing its packages

In addition to providing an advanced level of anonymity by offering single, double, triple, and even quadruple VPN connections to its clients — wherein internet traffic is routed through two or more VPN servers, while simultaneously encrypting the data as many times — DoubleVPN’s “cheapest VPN connection” cost as little as $25 per month.

While there are different types of double VPNs, the basic idea is that of using two (or more) secure tunnels together. A connection is first created between a computer and the VPN, and then a second encrypted tunnel is established between the first and the second server.

Prior to its takedown, DoubleVPN’s site also claimed the service kept no logs or statistics on its users, stating “we don’t spy on our clients” and that “we can speak responsibly that there is no logging client activity on our servers.”

Tuesday’s incident isn’t the first time a VPN service has been caught in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

In December 2020, Europol and agencies from the Netherlands, U.S., Germany, Switzerland, and France took down Safe-Inet, a popular virtual private network provider that offered bulletproof hosting services to facilitate criminal activity.

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian Enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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