Encrochat, a platform for encrypted communications, which was eliminated by European law enforcement officers in 2020, used the Signal protocol. Encrochat has been used by over 60,000 criminals worldwide.Let me remind you that Encrochat phones guaranteed their users absolute anonymity, since they did not have a device or SIM card tied to the customer’s account and were purchased under conditions that guarantee the impossibility of tracing their origin. Full confidentiality was also guaranteed: the encrypted interface was reliably hidden, and the device itself was modified – the camera, microphone, GPS module and USB port were physically missing.
Such devices came with two operating systems at once: if the user wanted the device to look harmless, he loaded regular Android. If it was necessary to use secret chats, the user switched to the Encrochat system.
Operators of the Encrochat platform installed their own encrypted messaging and VoIP calling programs on their phones, which routed traffic through the company’s own servers. Also, the phones had the function of quick and complete zeroing of the device if the user entered a special PIN-code.
The company sold these phones by subscription: a six-month contract cost around £1,500.
As a result, this operation led to the arrest of 746 people, the seizure of £ 54 million in cash ($ 67.4 million), 77 firearms (machine guns, pistols, four grenades and more than 1,800 rounds), 55 expensive cars and more than two tons of drugs.
In the Netherlands alone, the closure of Encrochat has led to multiple arrests, the dismantling of 19 methamphetamine laboratories, and the seizure of 1,200 kilograms of methamphetamine and more than 10 tons of cocaine. Also, law enforcement officers found in the village, near the border with Belgium, creepy shipping containers converted into prisons and torture chambers (with soundproofing, a dental chair, handcuffs, scalpels and other tools).
As the Vice Motherboard now reports, in possession of documents drawn up by law enforcement officers, the Encrochat phones used the Signal protocol in the encrypted messaging application.
While Signal is known to many as a free messaging application for encryption, the organization behind the application has long since opened their cryptographic protocol libraries to everyone. As a result, companies like WhatsApp also use this protocol in their products.
It should be noted that the operation of law enforcement officers to liquidate Encrochat was not related to the insecurity of the application itself or the Signal protocol. The fact is that last year the French police managed to inject malware on Encrochat devices and got to the content of user messages in this way.
Interestingly, representatives of Signal and the National Agency for Combating Crime refused to comment on the finding of journalists.
Let me remind you that I talked about Vulnerabilities in Signal, Google Duo and Facebook Messenger that allowed spying on users.
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