Europol Busts Large Pirate IPTV Network in Bulgaria

By Bill Toulas / February 6, 2020

Europol has collaborated with the Cybercrime Unit of the Bulgarian police to carry out a successful operation against an extensive network of illegal IPTV service distributors. The raids took place in the cities of Sofia and Varna, and the police entered 17 houses to conduct searches. This resulted in the seizure of a large number of documents, digital data, and hardware, all of which will be used as evidence to prove the guilt of the arrested individuals. According to the first statements made by the investigators, there are six companies involved in the scheme.

The Bulgarian General Directorate Combating Organized Crime has opened six pre-trial proceedings, one for each company involved. Already, a fine has been imposed on the firm that held the leading position in the scheme, with the amount being €650000. According to what is made evident from the confiscated data, the pirate IPTV service network had at least 30000 subscribers who were receiving the broadcasted signals illegally. The network was unearthed after Europol deployed two expert investigators in the country. They managed to gather information on the activity of the IPTV service and cross-check their findings against Europol’s central intelligence databases.

This is not the first time that the Bulgarian police are collaborating with Europol to bring down illegal IPTV service operators. In June, five cable operators who supported illegal IPTV services by providing their infrastructure were raided and arrested. In August, the Bulgarian police arrested a 40-year-old man in Sofia who owned and operated a large network of pirate websites. Europol had also helped the Bulgarians to locate GozNym actors back in May 2019, as part of an international intelligence operation that involved five countries. All that said, Bulgarian is far from being considered a pirate haven anymore.

That is not to say that piracy is over in the country though. On the contrary, people who engage in regular piracy and don’t sell illegal services are still left largely unpunished, and there have been zero cases of people being arrested for downloading torrents, etc. Thus, there’s market demand, and as long as there’s a demand there will always be someone to take the risk to cover it. Right now, the cybercrime unit focusing on high-impact cases and large networks that serve many thousands of subscribers. This latest bust wasn’t one of the largest ones, so we may have entered the next phase where medium-sized fish are being chased now.

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