Yesterday, police in 14 countries around Europe coordinated in raids against so-called Warez Scene topsites. Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Great Britain, Czech Republic and Hungary all saw action. With the help of Scene insiders and other sources, today we try to piece together what happened, including which sites were hit and which ones got away.
Twenty-four hours ago brought the news that a huge police operation right across Europe had reached its climax.
Officers in 14 countries coordinated to carry out multiple searches in an attempt to inflict serious damage on the so-called Warez Scene, the shadowy network of Internet based servers and individuals who deal in large quantities of pirated music, movies and software.
Yesterday nearly all information had come from either the authorities, police or staff at datacenters, notably Sweden’s PRQ, but since then TorrentFreak sources with varying levels of inside information have been trying to put us in the picture.
So, keeping in mind that reporting on the Scene is a black art, that we’ve had to hold some information back to protect certain individuals and keep our sources happy, and redact here and there to protect others, here are our findings thus far.
“In pretty much all of the cases the police just walked into the datacenters, proceeded with warrants, more or less unplugged the boxes and left with them,” one source told us. “They knew very well exactly what they were looking for and this was a highly coordinated attack.”
While there were reports of individuals having been taken in for questioning yesterday, for an operation of this size those numbers seem unusually low. This is due to the operation targeting only ‘topsites’ – no specific release groups or their members appear to have been the focus of the action. It’s believed that some siteops weren’t so lucky.
We know that the raids were carried out at the behest of the Belgian authorities and two sources have told us that it is suspected that a Scene group in Belgium had been infiltrated a long time ago. Indeed, the authorities over there say that this operation had been two years in the making.
Another source is pointing the finger squarely at a siteop with poor security, but whatever the reasons, these sites are now in disarray.
As of last night, all the following Scene sites were down either because they were successfully targeted in the raids or as a precautionary measure. The first three are said to be very highly ranked and three of the top four were almost certainly busted.
1. BAR – Sweden.
2. LOST – Czech Republic
3. [name redacted] – major site in The Netherlands
4. SC – Sweden / Poland
5. Affiliated site in Eastern Europe believed safe, but down.
6. [porn section of a sitering, redacted] – Sweden
Based on the information we’re being provided with, certain sites probably survived due to the techniques they employed to thwart this kind of an attack. In other cases perhaps the police didn’t quite get it right. We can’t be more specific.
Sources inform TorrentFreak that Sweden’s BAR was one of the four most important 0day sites. Since it went down yesterday, another significant southern European site in that top four has announced it has closed its operations for good.
In respect of the Czech operation, Jan Podhajsky of the Czech Pirate Party told us that a raid was carried out on a dormitory at the Czech Technical University in Prague. This is not the first time police have carried out an operation in this location – Podhajsky told us that raids against hackers have been going on there since the late 90s.
It seems that the impact of this large, Europe-wide operation will be significant, at least for the near future.
“Many groups and especially server operators are once again scared shitless,” a source told us. “We can probably expect more ‘resignations’ in the following days.”
Update: We’ve received information which suggests that a topsite, possibly the main one in the UK, was busted yesterday. There are unconfirmed reports that another is also down, but that could be just as a precaution. Two Scene groups have been reported to us as badly affected by the topsite raids but until we can confirm, we won’t be naming them.
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