Germany's largest cyber-criminal court case has just started. Amid a widespread media frenzy and a state flooded with pandemic cases, the case is still moving forward.
Eight defendants stood on trial in a German courtroom. Four of them are Dutch nationals, one is a Bulgarian citizen and the rest are locals. All eight of them are accused of being operators of the "Cyberbunker" data center. Major controversy is surrounding the seizure of the servers. Many questions regarding German data protection regulations and law enforcement are being asked.
The data-center known as "cyberbunker" is a huge structure that was set up in an old military bunker. After the Cold War era, the bunker was abandoned. The defendants then transformed the bunker into a huge data-center. The servers were advertised as bulletproof, meaning no one could take them down, even the government. At-least that's what they thought.
All eight defendants are facing similar charges. They are being charged for facilitating dark-net criminal activity. This was done by helping threat actors host their illegal activity on their server. Ilegal sale of drugs, hitman services, money laundering and even child abuse was all found to be hosted on the servers.
Johan X has been identified as the mastermind in the large scale establishment. He has played a role in hosting the now defunct Wall Street Market. The dark-net marketplace has grown to become the second largest market in existence. It was eventually seized along with the cyberbunker by law enforcement.
In September of 2019, a major law enforcement operation was carried out. After spanning for almost five years, the operation finally landed on the Cold War bunker. In September the bunker got raided and shut down by police. The operators were all placed in custody.
The 5,000 square meter bunker, had reinforced doors. For law enforcement, this operation was unlike any other. After breaching the construction, the agents exposed the "bulletproof hosting" service. This is how the infrastructure designed to shield criminals got exploited.
This massive seizure yielded great results. Over 200 servers have been seized. This includes documents, gadgets and a massive amount of money. This is the first time German law enforcement took down a "bulletproof" hosting service. After lifting the lid on the defendants operations, the agencies went on to investigate the servers.
Agents cracked most of the servers trying to reveal as much data as possible. Several online platforms that enable the sale of illicit drugs and other material have been found. Following this, 13 suspects have been arrested. All of the apprehended suspects are aged between 20 and 60. The reason behind their arrest is yet unclear but it was found that they were all parts of criminal networks.
The Legal Challenge
This trial is not an ordinary one for the German government. Not only it is expected to last over a year but it is believed that it will set new laws. The new laws are expected to redefine data privacy especially when it comes to data centers.
Today, investigators are still examining all the data gathered from the huge seizures. This can take years as the cyber-bunker hosted thousands of physical an virtual servers. The possibility that the defendants did not know what their customers were hosting is high.
There is a bug chance that the court will provide proof that Johan and his accomplices are indeed guilty there is a small issue. A large privacy question is raised. How could they have known without breaching their customers privacy?
As it turns out, German data protection laws happen to be among the strictest. In comparison to German data protection laws, other states are behind. A good example is the manner in which electronic payment methods have been treated due to concerns about possible data mining.
It is likely that the "cyberbunker" case will redefine German privacy laws. Legal frontiers will be influenced heavily by this case and will have to go back to the drawing board. The complexity of this case indicates that it is more than likely to take over a year. The prosecution team will have to study all the charges raised against the defendants and with current privacy laws this will take time.