It is well known to law enforcement that DDoS services – distributed denial of service – have considerably lowered the barrier to entry into cybercrime. For a fee as low as about €10, any unskilled person can launch DDoS attacks at the click of a button, taking entire websites and networks down.
The damage that can be inflicted on victims can be significant, even crippling businesses economically and depriving people of essential services provided by various entities such as banks, police forces or government administrations.
Emboldened by a perceived anonymity, many young technology enthusiasts engage in this seemingly low-level crime, unaware of the consequences that such online activities can entail. For example, law enforcement agencies are working intensively against DDoS services. And, in this regard, all levels of users are on law enforcement’s radar, whether it’s a gamer ripping the competition from a video game or a high-level hacker conducting DDoS attacks against commercial targets for financial gain.
The effects that a criminal investigation can have on the lives of these DDoS users can be very serious, given the prison sentences that are contemplated in some countries.
In this vein, police forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland and Germany developed an operation known as Power off against this type of cyber-attacks that can paralyse the Internet.
This international operation aimed at combating DDoS service providers, designed to allow users to launch a parallel distributed denial of service against critical online infrastructures, has enabled about fifty of the world’s largest illegal IT service providers to be disabled. One of these neutralised services had been used to commit more than 30 million attacks.
As part of this action, seven administrators have so far been arrested between the United States and the United Kingdom, with further action planned against users of these illegal services.
International police cooperation was critical to the success of this operation, as the administrators, users, critical infrastructure and victims were dispersed around the world. Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre coordinated activities in Europe through its Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT).
This international operation follows previous editions of Power Off operations that targeted administrators and users of the webstresser.org DDoS marketplace.