Hundreds of servers used to support child pornography, cybercrime, and the sale of illegal drugs have been seized in a police raid on a former NATO bunker in Germany.
German authorities arrested thirteen people between the ages of 20 and 59 on Friday after busting up a dark web hosting operation being run from a heavily fortified five-floor military bunker in the peaceful riverside town of Traben-Trarbach.
After breaking through an iron door to gain access to the temperature-controlled bunker, 600 police searched the 1.3-acre premises and found around 200 servers stored in stacks together with disks, mobile phones, documents, and a large sum of cash.
A 59-year-old Dutchman, who purchased the bunker in 2013, is thought to be the owner and operator of the business, which offered secured “bulletproof” website hosting to illegal businesses and concealed their activities from authorities. Sites linked to the bunker include illegal online drug stores Cannabis Road, Orange Chemicals, and Wall Street Market, formerly the second-largest global marketplace for drugs, where users could also buy hacking tools and financial-theft ware.
Suspects arrested in connection with the raid are thought to have links to organized crime and are likely to be named as accessories to over 250,000 offenses involving money counterfeiting, drugs, data mining, forged documents, and the distribution of child pornography.
Seven of the people arrested are being held in custody, with two thought to hold previous convictions for running a similar business out of a former military bunker in the Netherlands, which was sold as CyberBunker.
Regional criminal police chief Johannes Kunz said, “I think it’s a huge success . . . that we were able at all to get police forces into the bunker complex, which is still secured at the highest military level. We had to overcome not only real, or analog, protections; we also cracked the digital protections of the data center.”
Since the operation of the bunker hosting service isn’t illegal per se, German authorities must prove the suspects arrested were aware of the illegal behavior of the hosted businesses to secure a conviction. Evaluating the stored data to determine this could take anywhere from months to years.
Commenting on the raid, Vectra‘s head of security, Chris Morales, said: “We need to see more collaboration like this which involves the coordination between digital forensics and investigation and physical police enforcement. I applaud all of the German law enforcement agencies involved on a job well done.”