In a joint operation conducted by European and British law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of hundreds of alleged drug dealers and other crooks. The police infiltrated into a global network of an encrypted chatting app that was used by criminals involved in drug dealing, money laundering, extortions, and even murders.
“Over the last months, the joint investigation made it possible to intercept, share and analyse millions of messages that were exchanged between criminals to plan serious crimes. For an important part, these messages were read by law enforcement in real time, over the shoulder of the unsuspecting senders.” reads the press release published by the Europol.
“The information has already been relevant in a large number of ongoing criminal investigations, resulting in the disruption of criminal activities including violent attacks, corruption, attempted murders and large-scale drug transports”
Since 2017, the police have launched an investigation into phones that were used by criminals to secure their communications. The investigators discovered that the phones were running the EncroChat application, software provided by a company operating from servers in France.
The Europol states that in early 2020, EncroChat was one of the largest providers of encrypted digital communication, one of the most popular in the criminal ecosystem. The handset and the services are offered for around £1,500 for a six-month subscription, it had 60,000 users worldwide.
French authorities opened a case at the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), towards the Netherlands in 2019
EncroChat phones are used to securely exchange data and messages with pre-loaded apps for secure instant messaging, VOIP calling. The application includes self destruct messages and a ‘remote wipe’ feature to remotely wipe data on the handset in case of emergency.
French and Dutch police hacked into the network and analyzed millions of messages and hundreds of thousands of images in real-time.
Law enforcement agencies claimed to have cracked the encryption code of EncroChat in March and started penetrating the network from April 1. EncroChat discovered the hack on June 13 and urged its users to throw away their devices due to the ongoing operation conducted by the police.
European authorities successfully dismantled Encrochat and disrupted one of the key communication networks used by criminal organizations in Europe.
Both National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police also announced that they have shut down the EncroChat servers and arrested 746 suspects. The list of arrested people also includes two law enforcement officers, the overall operation resulted in the seizure of:
The NCA also stated that a specialist NCA team, working with policing partners, has prevented rival gangs from carrying out kidnappings and executions on the streets in the UK by successfully mitigating over 200 threats to life.
The police arrested a large number of suspects in several countries.
“The effects of the operation will continue to echo in criminal circles for many years to come, as the information has been provided to hundreds of ongoing investigations and, at the same time, is triggering a very large number of new criminal investigations of organised crime across the European continent and beyond.”
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, 5G)