An encryption service used by cyber attackers to remain anonymous online has been shut down in an international operation involving the UK National Crime Agency.
Fifteen server infrastructures were shut down on Monday in an operation led by German police to take down LabVPN.
According to the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), the network was used by criminals connected to cyber attacks that "caused significant economic harm to UK businesses" but would not say which ones while investigations are ongoing.
Set up in 2008, LabVPN offered virtual private network services via the dark web for around US$60 per year.
The system allowed users to conceal their identity, including criminals who wanted to evade capture.
According to the NCA, its use was linked to ransomware campaigns – where hackers lock access to a user's information until they pay a ransom.
Cyber criminals using LabVPN clearly thought they could operate with impunity and remain under the radar of law enforcement, according to John Denley, deputy director of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit.
"This operation shows they were wrong and that there is no hiding place from the combined power of global law enforcement when it comes to taking down illegal IT infrastructure.
"This included the NCA switching off servers which were being hosted in the UK.
"We continue to work closely with international partners to bolster our capability to respond to this national security threat and strengthen the UK's response to cyber crime."