Police hack encrypted phone network used to organize drug deals, murders, and other crimes

midian182

Posts: 5,866   +48
Staff member
In a nutshell: Nobody wants to be spied on, especially criminals. That’s where EncroChat came in. The company provided specially altered phones that let buyers use an encrypted network for exchanging incriminating messages without the risk of being seen by authorities. Or so they thought.

EncroChat’s custom phones cost around $1,100, but that flagship price didn’t get you flagship features; these modified Android handsets lacked cameras, microphones, and GPS. What they did offer, however, were encrypted messaging and calls, self-destructing texts, and a PIN-based “panic wipe” function. Users could even boot into the standard Android OS if they didn’t want to raise suspicions, switching to the EncroChat system to access the secure features. The network also provided subscriptions with global coverage for $1,600 per month, according to the New York Times.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) writes that EncroChat’s instant messaging service was used by 60,000 people worldwide for coordinating the distribution of illicit goods, money laundering, and plotting to kill rivals.

What the criminals using EncroChat didn’t know was that French authorities had hacked their way into the network and installed a tool allowing them to read users’ communications for months. The messages were then shared with agencies around Europe.

The information led to the UK’s largest-ever law enforcement operation, resulting in 746 arrests, the seizure of £54 million ($68 million) in cash, 77 firearms and more than two tons of drugs. Police also seized sub-machine guns, handguns, four grenades, an AK47 assault rifle, and more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition.

The NCA added that 28 million Etizolam pills (street Valium) were seized, along with 55 high-value cars, and 73 luxury watches. The agency worked with police to stop rival gangs carrying out kidnappings and executions by “successfully mitigating over 200 threats to life.”

It was a similar story in the Netherlands, where police made 60 arrests, seized 22,000 pounds of cocaine, 154 pounds of heroin, and 3,300 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, among other substances. They also dismantled 19 synthetic drug labs, seized 25 vehicles with “special compartments,” and “expensive watches.”

“What seems to be possible only in police thrillers and movies has happened before our own eyes,” said Andy Kraag, head of the National Criminal Investigations Department in the Netherlands. “We’ve captured messages that give us a view of daily life in the criminal world.”

The investigation into EncroChat began in 2017. French authorities discovered the company’s servers in Lille, a city in the north of France. Users were warned that the network had been “infiltrated” by “governmental entities” on June 13.

EncroChat framed itself as a legitimate company offering secure communication to those who need it, such as security professionals, lawyers, and investigative journalists. But French authorities say 90 percent of the company's customers in the country were “engaged in criminal activity.” EncroChat has now shut down.

Image credit: Tero Vesalainen

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,045   +2,862
This is news to me because I always assumed that the multi-national, multi trillion dollar, deficit-spending, nuclear-armed, space-faring government with global law-enforcement agencies could be prevented from enforcing the laws on me simply by me using the “encryption button“.
 

Ludak021

Posts: 217   +146
Nice, would have been better if they hacked blackberry messaging 20 years ago. Imagine all the arrests of rich white people with private jets, villas, 20+ cars, political careers...islands...

oh wait...
 

brucek

Posts: 422   +483
That nation-wide haul of guns & ammunition they are bragging about having recovered could probably all have been found at the home of a single gun collector here in the U.S.
 
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kimo1

Posts: 67   +99
Amateur service for amateurs. Cops busted a microscopic fragment of criminal world. But the big thugs use verified services which have been active for decades and nobody bats an eye. As long as 99.999% of criminal activity still remains, nothing has really changed. Let's continue "fighting crime".
 

Freddie159

Posts: 56   +23
Amateur service for amateurs. Cops busted a microscopic fragment of criminal world. But the big thugs use verified services which have been active for decades and nobody bats an eye. As long as 99.999% of criminal activity still remains, nothing has really changed. Let's continue "fighting crime".
For most Cops it's more about 'staying in your own lane' and the Cops and hi-level criminals never see each other, only rarely do the hi-level criminals get caught for things like this, it's bigger Government things like Tax Evasion and Spying that get's them caught. It's alot like When Al Capone got caught back in the 1930's in the US, he had no income yet wore $1K suits and had expensive cars etc, that made everything given to him 'donations' and he went to jail for NOT paying taxes on those 'donations'.
 
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HyPeroxya

Posts: 110   +13
IN the Uk media its been potrayed as being cracked by the UK police (LOL) . Good to see "breaking bad" stashes of cash being seized, OFC the phones dont have GPS ...
Encrochat 2.0 in development . Using quantum thingys ...
 

treetops

Posts: 2,980   +746
Nice, would have been better if they hacked blackberry messaging 20 years ago. Imagine all the arrests of rich white people with private jets, villas, 20+ cars, political careers...islands...

oh wait...
Why do you have to be racist and say white people. Crooked corruption spans across the globe. Think if someone hacked the government to show us their crimes. We know they used to perform experiments on prisoners. Euthanize undesirables. Chemically castrate gay people. Sterilize children born without both parents, IF you are poor. And that was going on in the 50s+?.... Who knows what shady bs they pull atm.

It reminds me of wildebeest being pulled under by crocs. A single kick from a wildebeest can kill a nile croc. Despite vastly outnumbering the crocodiles, due to a lack of strategy. They get picked off one at a time.
 
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EClyde

Posts: 2,257   +886
Amateur service for amateurs. Cops busted a microscopic fragment of criminal world. But the big thugs use verified services which have been active for decades and nobody bats an eye. As long as 99.999% of criminal activity still remains, nothing has really changed. Let's continue "fighting crime".
Yes let's