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European Union's law enforcement agency's headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

European and North American police on Wednesday took control of the infrastructure behind a massive network used by criminals to conduct cybercrime, the AP reports.

Why it matters: By claiming the infrastructure, authorities dealt a major blow to cyber criminals who use Emotet — one of the world's largest networks of hijacked computers — to install ransomware as part of extortion schemes and financial theft heists.

Context: Ransomware criminals have crippled healthcare systems and governments with the help of networks of hijacked computers like Emotet.

  • Ransomware works by scrambling a victim's data, allowing criminals to demand money in exchange for decoding software to repair the data.

The big picture: European Union police and the judicial agencies Europol and Eurojus, two Hague-based agencies, coordinated the operation with authorities in the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the U.K., France, Lithuania, Canada and Ukraine.

Meanwhile: The FBI announced Wednesday that it arrested a Canadian as part of a bid to disrupt the ransomware gang NetWalker, which it said had targeted the health care sector. Included in the arrest was the seizure of nearly half a million dollars in cryptocurrency.

Thought bubble, via Zach Dorfman of the Aspen Institute: The sheer number of countries involved and scale of the operation and coordination headaches shows how serious a challenge cyber criminal groups and botnets have become.

  • As Wired notes, it was a “global effort” that took down command-and-control infrastructure in 90 countries.
  • And unlike a joint public-private action last year designed to hobble the massive Trickbot botnet, the move against Emotet appears aimed at permanently crushing it.

Go deeper: The rise and rise of ransomware

Go deeper

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

6 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios