In one of the largest law enforcement busts ever, European police and crime agencies hacked an encrypted communications platform used by thousands of criminals and drug traffickers. By infiltrating the platform, Encrochat, police across Europe gained access to a hundred million encrypted messages. In the UK, those messages helped officials arrest 746 suspects, seize £54 million (about $67 million) and confiscate 77 firearms and two tonnes of Class A and B drugs, the National Crime Agency (NCA) reported. According to Vice, police also made arrests in France, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Encrochat promised highly secure phones that, as Vice explains, were essentially modified Android devices. The company installed its own encrypted messaging platform, removed the GPS, camera and microphone functions and offered features like the ability to wipe the device with a PIN. The phones could make VOIP calls and send texts, but they did little else. They ran two operating systems, one of which appeared normal to evade suspicion. Encrochat used a subscription model, which cost thousands of dollars per year, and users seemed to think that it was foolproof.
Law enforcement agencies began collecting data from Encrochat on April 1st. According to the BBC, the encryption code was likely cracked in early March. It’s not clear exactly how officials hacked the platform, which is now shut down.