HILVERSUM, the Netherlands--The Dutch department of Justice raided the University of Twente as part of a software piracy investigation, a school representative said Thursday.
The late-November raid, a major setback for underground "warez" groups, came just days before a massive international crackdown spearheaded by the U.S. Customs Office.
Several students were apprehended and are suspected of trading in illegal software, misuse of computer facilities at the university, and being members of a criminal organization.
"I know that there has been an investigation and the university has cooperated in this investigation," the school representative said. "I think this concerns two or three suspects, part of a larger investigation into illegal software."
The Dutch sweep came just days before the U.S. Customs Office unleashed "Operation Buccaneer," a wide-ranging investigation undertaken in cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department and law enforcement from the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, Norway and Sweden. That investigation--described as the largest software piracy crackdown ever--targeted a warez group known as DrinkOrDie and resulted in the seizure of more than 130 computers worldwide between Dec. 10 and Dec. 12.
Warez is the generic online name for digital content such as games, movies or software whose copy protection has been defeated by skilled programmers. The programs can then be used on any PC without first buying the software.
It was unclear whether the Dutch raid was related to Operation Buccaneer.
Some warez traders said the recent crackdowns have put a crimp in their activities, at least temporarily.
Twente has been identified by members of the underground community as one of two major hubs for communications between pirate groups. The other, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, was targeted by investigators last week, with U.S. Customs Service agents taking six computers from the residences of six students.
Staff writer Jasper Koning reported from Hilversum. News.com's Rob Lemos contributed to this report from San Francisco.