Encrypted phone service EncroChat dismantled; leading to 800+ arrests

We reported about the closure of the infamous…
Encrypted phone service EnroChat dismantled; leading to 800+ arrests

Earlier, EncroChat claimed that the company was hit by a malware attack from European law enforcement agencies.

Last month, Hackread.com reported the closure of the infamous encrypted communication service EncroChat after it was hit by a targeted cyber attack by government-backed forces in Europe. Now, the European authorities have provided additional information and clarity on the results of the operation.

In a tweet, Europol announced that the encrypted phone network was widely used by criminals to plan “serious crimes across Europe.” This operation allowed the authorities to get “unprecedented volumes of new evidence to profoundly tackle organized criminal networks” and get an in-depth insight into the modus operandi and scale off these notorious gangs’ functioning. 

The Europol, Eurojust, French and Dutch judicial and law enforcement authorities conducted a joint press conference where they presented the ‘impressive results’ of the closure of EncroChat.

As per the press release, law enforcement across Europe authorities has been secretly intercepting and decoding the communications between criminals conducted via EncroChat. Most of these messages were accessed in ‘real-time’ without alerting the senders. 

The obtained information helped in many ongoing criminal investigations. The authorities could disrupt a range of upcoming criminal acts such as attempted murders, violent attacks, large-scale drug smuggling, and corruption among many others through analyzing the message exchanges between criminals.

See: Europol nabs SIM hacking network from across Europe

Reportedly, since 2017 the French judicial authorities and the French Gendarmerie have been investigating mobile phones using EncroChat as the secured communication tool was used widely in organized criminal activities in France. They were able to intercept users’ communication using a technical device to access the correspondence.

By 2020 EncroChat had become one of the biggest encrypted digital communication service providers globally, and a majority of its users were criminals, particularly those involved in the trading of cocaine and cannabis and money laundering. 

French authorities then contacted Eurojust in 2019, and this initiated a joint operation against EncroChat and its users. In France, the operation started in March 2020 under the code name Emma 95, while in the Netherlands, the operation was code-named Lemont.

The authorities intercepted the exchange of messages between thousands of criminals, and the data was processed and decoded by hundreds of investigators participating in the operation. The interception continued until 13 June 2020, when the company realized that its service was under the radar of law enforcement.

EncroChat also sent out a warning message to its users to immediately destroy their phones. However, it was too late by then as authorities already had plenty of information against organized crime networks, and currently, they are busy arresting the criminals.

EncroChat encrypted communication provider quits after malware attack
Message sent by the company (Image credit: IrishTimes)

Around 60,000 people reportedly used the French service EncroChat, which operated on ‘customized’ android devices. The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) claimed that the service was used as a ‘criminal marketplace’ responsible for facilitating the trading of Class A drugs worldwide, importing weapons like sub-machine guns, assault rifles, hand grenades, shotguns, and pistols.

Encrypted phone service EnroChat dismantled; leading to 800+ arrests
Image: NCA

The criminals used EncroChat handheld devices in plotting violent attacks against rival gangs, making threats to life, including acid attacks, and planning for enforcing drug debts. 

So far, around 800 people, including some prominent crime figures, have been arrested from different parts in Europe using information acquired through EncroChat. The authorities seized over two tons of drugs, dozens of guns, and around £54m in cash. 

According to Dame Cressida Dick, the UK Metropolitan Police Commissioner,

“This is just the beginning. We will be disrupting organized criminal networks as a result of these operations for weeks and months and possibly years to come.”

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1 comment
  1. Deeba —

    FYI, it appears that most instances you’re using “EnroChat” — it should be “EncroChat” (as seen in the quoted tweet).

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