FBI, Europol take down a VPN service aimed at criminals

Above-board VPN operators still have reason to be nervous.

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Jon Fingas
December 26th, 2020
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Prykhodov via Getty Images

Virtual private networks are often forces for good that keep your data secure, but how that service is offered appears to matter to law enforcement. TorrentFreak reports that the FBI and Europol worked together to shut down Safe-Inet (also known as Insorg), a VPN service apparently tailor-made for criminals. The “bulletproof” service was not only advertised on crime-focused forums, but was reportedly used often for practices like card skimming, ransomware and account hijacking.

Justice Department officials noted that many of these bulletproof services often run cover for criminals, such as refusing to offer logs or “ignoring or fabricating excuses” when victims complain. They become “coconspirators” in the crimes they’re enabling, the DOJ said. Officials didn’t directly claim that Safe-Inet engaged in these practices, but it’s at least implied.

While there’s little doubt about Safe-Inet’s target audience, there are concerns about the implications for above-board VPN services. The industry’s i2Coalition supported the takedown, but some of Safe-Inet’s practices are common to privacy-focused VPNs. Companies might refuse to log VPNs in case authoritarian governments or hackers abuse the data. Although the FBI and other law enforcement agencies won’t necessarily crack down on VPN services simply for implementing pro-privacy measures, it might not take much more to prompt police action.

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