In 2020, European law enforcement officers carried out an operation to eliminate the Encrochat encrypted communications platform, which was used by more than 60,000 criminals around the world.
As Europol now said, this operation led to the arrest of more than 6,600 people and the confiscation of almost a billion dollars.
We also wrote about Law Enforcement Officers Hacked the Secure Messenger Exclu and Traced the Criminals.
Let me remind you that Encrochat phones guaranteed their users absolute anonymity, since they did not have a device or SIM card tied to a client account and were purchased under conditions that guaranteed the impossibility of tracing their origin. Complete confidentiality was also guaranteed: the encrypted interface was securely hidden, and the device itself was modified – the camera, microphone, GPS module and USB port were physically absent.
Such devices were supplied with two operating systems at once: if the user wanted the device to look harmless, he loaded the usual Android. If it was necessary to use secret chats, the user switched to the Encrochat system. According to media reports, the Encrochat phones were based on modified BQ Aquaris X2, Android smartphones released in 2018 by the Spanish electronics company.
The operators of the Encrochat platform installed their own encrypted messaging and VoIP calling programs on the phones, which routed traffic through the company’s own servers. The phones also had the function of quickly and completely resetting the device if the user entered a special PIN code, protection against unauthorized access, and a brute-force-resistant hardware cryptographic mechanism certified according to the FIPS 140-2 standard.
These phones were sold by subscription: a six-month contract cost about 1,500 euros, and the device itself was purchased as a one-time purchase for 1,000 euros.
We also wrote that Encrochat encrypted messaging platform using Signal protocol.
In 2020, as part of a large-scale operation by European law enforcement agencies, experts managed to penetrate the EncroChat network and eventually analyzed millions of messages exchanged by criminals.
This week, Europol released official statistics related to this operation, which has become one of the largest in history. It turned out that since 2020, law enforcement officers in France and the Netherlands, working together with their counterparts in other countries, have arrested 6,558 people who were EncroChat users. At the same time, 197 of them were on the list of especially important targets.
In addition, using data collected on EncroChat, authorities confiscated more than 270 tons of drugs (including heroin, cocaine, cannabis, etc.), 971 vehicles, 271 properties, 923 weapons, 68 explosives, 40 aircraft, and 83 boats.
Also, 810 million dollars in cash passed into the hands of law enforcement agencies, and another 168 million dollars were frozen in various accounts.
It has now been calculated that the majority of EncroChat users were either involved in organized crime (34.8%) or involved in drug trafficking (33.3%). The rest were involved in money laundering (14%), murder (11.5%) and firearms trafficking (6.4%).
In total, the arrested ex-EncroChat users were sentenced to 7,134 years in prison, but a press release from Europol notes that far from all sentences have been handed down.
Let me remind you that the media also reported that Ukrainian law enforcement officers arrested members of the hacker group Phoenix.
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