When Police Are Hackers: Hundreds Charged as Encrypted Network Is Broken

When Police Are Hackers: Hundreds Charged as Encrypted Network Is Broken

When Police Are Hackers: Hundreds Charged as Encrypted Network Is Broken

When Police Are Hackers: Hundreds Charged as Encrypted Network Is Broken

“What is really important for Europol is that we are kind of just getting started,” Ms. Hollevoet said. “In this initial phase the focus has been really on acting on those messages which contain live, threatening content, and the crimes that were really endangering people’s lives. But we still have so much data that is being analyzed, processed and transmitted to different countries.”

The hacked messages and conversations were shared among the police in Europe through Europol. In Britain, the police made nearly 750 arrests, and seized $67 million in cash, 77 firearms and over two tons of drugs.

The information was also used by the police in Sweden and Norway, leading to arrests in those countries as well.

In the Netherlands, the police were able to make some 60 arrests as a result of the intercepted messages and to seize 22,000 pounds of cocaine, 154 pounds of heroin and 3,300 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, among other substances. They also dismantled 19 synthetic drug labs, seized 25 vehicles with “special compartments” and also “expensive watches,” according to a statement from Europol.

The hacking “allowed authorities to detect and stop potential criminal activities,” said Ms. Etienne, the French prosecutor. “More than 100 criminal acts were picked up by Europol.”

The investigation into EncroChat began in 2017, and it was initially focused on Lille, a city in the north of France, where the authorities discovered the presence of EncroChat servers. On June 13, the network sent out a warning to its users that it had been “infiltrated” by “governmental entities,” and advised customers to immediately get rid of their phones.

“In many of our investigations, but also in other European countries, we were coming across a lot of criminals with EncroChat phones, and after a while that caught our attention,” said Maj. Gen. Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, of the French gendarmerie. “We realized that this network was used over 90 percent of the time by criminals to message each other and hide their communications from traditional police wiretapping techniques.”


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