The data center near Amsterdam is called the “cesspool of the Internet”, but it continues to work

Ecatel data center in North Holland, a source

This is the history of secure hosting Ecatel with a data center in the town Wormer (13 km northwest of Amsterdam). The hoster specializes in confidentiality, that is, it does not fundamentally check the reliability of customers, does not respond to requests from American copyright holders under the DMCA law, and does not cooperate with law enforcement agencies. His are called “Cesspool” of the Internet.

Ecatel has been under investigation for many years for DDoS attacks, malware, spam and child pornography (CP). But the Dutch authorities are failing to do anything, because according to Dutch law, the hoster is considered simply as a technical service provider (for example, as an electricity provider), so it is not obliged to check its customers.

Ecatel has repeatedly been ranked among the world’s worst hosters by Host Exploit. But no one can prove the facts of direct cooperation with criminals.

Now the Dutch edition of the NRC is asking the question: how is it possible that the hoster has been operating since 2002 without any problems?

Over the past two decades, only the list of agencies that have become interested in the company’s activities has changed – the police, the Financial Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD), the Ministry of Justice and Europol. The list has only grown. The owners of Ecatel are two businessmen from The Hague who come to Wormer once a week by car: “Bap K., a 75-year-old man with tinted glasses, and his 34-year-old business partner, Reinier van E., a large, bald, muscular man in a tracksuit (in 2002, this 16-year-old was brought into the business to solve technical issues). Businessmen often take two dogs with them to work, which bark at passers-by from the front garden of the data center, ”writes NRC.

When Reignier came of age, businessmen founded the British limited liability company Ecatel, as well as many dummy hosting companies: Novogara, DataZone, Reba Communications, FiberXpress, B&R Holding, iQarus, Incrediserve, Linkup, etc. Some companies do the same with the same address, but under different names. Others offer to sublet the servers, as if they had leased them from Ecatel. The “dirty hoster” network also includes companies like Quasi Networks and IP Volume with anonymous directors in the Seychelles. If a client is blocked at one hoster, he goes to the sub-tenant.

The partners opened their data center in the province of North Holland in 2011.

Data center Ecatel, a source

From the very beginning of the business, the flow of complaints against hosting companies has not stopped in connection with the placement of criminal content.

Reignier and Bap ignore the complaints. Moreover, even with their clients, they are rather rude. For example, one of the clients said that one day he came to pick up his servers, and Reignier demanded that he first pay off the debt – and then chased him with an ax. The client did not report the incident to the police because he himself “knocked down” Reignier with his car.

Ecatel’s business model has not changed over the years: we do not know anything, we do not respond to anything, we impede any cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

And it works because, under Dutch law, a hosting company cannot be held liable for the actions of those who rent its servers. The hosting company is not required to know the contents of each server.

Data center Ecatel, a source

When Ecatel receives an official request from the United States to remove DMCA copyrighted material, it is simply thrown into the trash can, witnesses say. Subtenants even advertise this “service” of total disregard for the DMCA. Spammers have no problems either.

For all claims of copyright holders and other victims, Ecatel requires a complaint to be made in writing and sent in an official manner, delaying the procedure as much as possible and communicating with copyright holders “in a cheerful tone,” writes NRC.

For example, a large botnet worked through Ecatel for a long time, the English Premier League football matches were illegally broadcast and other crimes were committed. Dutch police regularly visit the data center in Wormer to copy data from the servers, but Bap and Reynier usually ignore them. They feel invulnerable: they invite the police for a cup of coffee and offer a guided tour of the data center. While inspecting the diesel generator, Reignier told the police with a smile that he had programmed it himself and had given the electrician a bribe of several hundred euros to put a seal.

Data center Ecatel, a source

There are other times when visits are less smooth and the cops threaten to break down doors, but the whole thing remains a game of cat and mouse without much consequence. According to sources, the prosecutor’s office is not interested in a serious criminal investigation that will prove malicious intent in the actions of Bap and Reynier.

The situation changed slightly after 2017, when Ferd Grapperhaus of the Conservative CDA took over as Minister of Justice. They say he was shocked by the Netherlands’ leadership in the world ranking of child pornography. The ministry has initiated a number of measures, including the launch of the Child Pornography (CP) Technical Detection System, a hash verification server that hosting companies can connect to. Images found in criminal cases in the Netherlands and elsewhere are entered into the system and must be removed immediately.

On September 22, 2020, the financial intelligence service carried out a real raid on the Ecatel data center: two dozen cars gathered here, the owners were detained on charges of tax evasion. 70,000 euros in cash and dozens of bitcoins were confiscated, as well as five cars and two stun guns.

Some commentators see the fiscal police raid as a desperate gesture, like Al Capone’s accusations of tax evasion when no other crimes have been proven.

Thus, the “bulletproof” Dutch hoster continues to work. The NRC edition draws attention to the inaction of the Internet community, which does not agree to deprive with Ecatel. For example, a spokesman for the Amsterdam Exchange said: “We are just a data channel, we have nothing to do with content. After all, we cannot study which of the participants in the traffic exchange is providing hosting. “

Some opponents are in favor of adopting rules like banking rules KYCto collect information about each customer before providing them with services.

Hosting encryption

Perhaps some of the above problems can be solved by using data encryption on the hosting. For example, since 2020, the Linux Foundation has been promoting Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) secure computing standards among hardware manufacturers, hosters, and cloud providers, see: technical analysis Confidential Computing v1.1

The TEE standard combines homomorphic encryption and TPMby preventing unauthorized parties from gaining access to information on the server. With this encryption, the hosting provider does not see at all what files it has.

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