The "largest ever" botnet takedown operation is happening right now — Operation Endgame takes multiple criminal gangs offline

artistic representation of a hacker
Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Europol and its partners are currently running the “largest ever operation against botnets,” targeting multiple malware droppers, seizing hundreds of servers, thousands of domains, and even making a few arrests. 

The law enforcement says this operation will severely hinder botnet operations across the world, and thus make the internet a safer place for everybody.

The law enforcement said between May 27 and 29, it coordinated “Operation Endgame”, a major cybersecurity crackdown on botnets that “play a major role in the deployment of ransomware”. IcedID, SystemBC, Pikabot, Smokeloader, Bumblebee and Trickbot are among the botnets being disrupted by this campaign.

Europe's Most Wanted

During the raid, the agents made four arrests, grabbing an individual from Armenia, and three from Ukraine. They also searched 16 locations (one in Armenia, one in the Netherlands, three in Portugal, and 11 in Ukraine), took down or disrupted more than 100 servers across Europe, North America, and the UK, and seized more than 2,000 domains.

Besides making four arrests, it is also adding eight fugitives to Europe’s Most Wanted list. “The individuals are wanted for their involvement in serious cybercrime activities,” the law enforcement agency said in the announcement. Furthermore, it said that one of the main suspects raked in at least €69 million in cryptocurrency, by renting out criminal infrastructure sites to deploy ransomware.

It was left unclear if this suspect is arrested or currently on the run, however, Europol said their transactions are “constantly being monitored” and that it has legal permission to seize them if necessary, hinting that this person is not yet in custody. 

The operation was initiated and led by France, Germany and the Netherlands, with support from Eurojust, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Armenia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine also supported the operation with different actions, such as arrests, interviewing suspects, searches, and seizures or takedowns of servers and domains, Europol concluded, also saying that a number of private security firms participated as well, naming Bitdefender, Cryptolaemus, Sekoia, Shadowserver, Team Cymru, Prodaft, Proofpoint, NFIR, Computest, Northwave, Fox-IT, HaveIBeenPwned, Spamhaus, DIVD, and Zscaler.

Operation Endgame is not yet completed, and Europol set up a dedicated webpage on which it plans to release more information in less than five days.

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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.