British law enforcement officers have apparently managed to strike an important blow against organized crime. They cracked the encryption of the worldwide available communication platform EncroChat. The knowledge gained from this led to the arrest of 746 people and the confiscation of firearms, cash and more than two tons of drugs.
After v, EncroChat was one of the largest providers of encrypted communication for mobile devices. The chat service had over 60,000 users worldwide, including around 10,000 in the UK. EncroChat is said to have been used exclusively for coordinating crimes such as the distribution of illegal goods and money laundering. Even murder orders for rival criminals were organized through EncroChat.
The investigation against EncroChat and similar services had already started in 2016, according to a press release from the investigators. Two months ago, the platform was finally infiltrated with partners in France and the Netherlands. The data obtained was also passed on to Europol. Since then, all their steps have been monitored as part of Operation Venetic without the knowledge of EncroChat users. The EncroChat servers have also been switched off.
In the UK alone, 746 people were arrested in various house searches and 77 firearms, four grenades and more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition were confiscated. Investigators also fell more than two tons of category A and B illegal drugs, including drugs such as crack, cocaine, heroin and crystal meth, as well as cannabis, amphetamines, barbiturates and ketamines. An illegal laboratory also found 28 million valium tablets. Investigators also confiscated £ 54m in cash and luxury items such as high-quality vehicles and watches.
However, on June 13, EncroChat operators found that their platform had been compromised. In a message to all users, they recommended that the smartphones issued for the use of EncroChat be destroyed. The phones were delivered with pre-installed apps for messaging and VoIP calls as well as a kill switch for remote deletion. For a six-month contract, the operators charged around £ 1,500.
At the time, however, the investigators already had millions of messages and several hundred thousand photos. According to the National Crime Unit, investigations into the most dangerous groups of criminals were prioritized.
“Infiltrating this command and control communications platform for the UK criminal market is like having an inside person in every top group of organized crime in the country,” said NCA Director Nikki Holland of the investigators’ success. “This operation shows that criminals do not go unpunished using encrypted devices to plan heinous crimes under the radar,” added Home Secretary Priti Patel.
It is unclear how such investigative successes will be possible after Britain’s final exit from the EU. The end of UK EU membership may also end all judicial cooperation. Even extraditing possible criminals to the UK would not be possible without a new agreement between Brussels and London – many EU countries do not have separate extradition agreements with the United Kingdom.
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