Encrochat: French and Dutch authorities manage to intercept messages from criminals

After months of collaboration, the Dutch and French authorities have finally managed to infiltrate a network of encrypted telephones, most often used by criminals and known as Encrochat.

A quo crackdown could significantly advance an ongoing police investigation.

It should be noted first of all Encrochat is a company brand that is not declared in France. The site is still online and the main activity of this structure is to provide its customers with encrypted phones that allow them to guarantee the confidentiality of their exchanges. But it must also be admitted that this is a solution that is used largely by criminals according to the authorities. They have publicly communicated that they have managed to infiltrate such a network, thus paving the way for "several hundred arrests" on the Europe continent.

The whole business has its roots from 2017. The French gendarmerie is opening an investigation into the development of this network of secure phones. What was known was that the company responsible for this establishment, Encrochat, was not declared on French territory. However, the phones produced by that company were involved in many of the cases on which the French police authorities were working. It was then that the gendarmerie decided to carry out some research in order to better understand how this network of secure phones worked. "Technical investigations carried out by the gendarmes revealed that this encrypted communication solution, not declared in France, was nevertheless implemented from servers installed in France, for the benefit of a global clientele," the authorities noted in a press release.

Moreover, a report produced by vice, explained that this network provided by Encrochat, with these secure phones, was much more used by criminal organizations, so as to become a standard for them. For the smartphones in question, they run Android, and have undergone modifications so that they can ship encryption computer programs, allowing them to pass all the messages to the Encrochat server. And that's not all. To ensure the safety of their phones, the company physically stop everything from camera, GPS, microphone. A security system has been added to erase the contents of the smartphone just by entering a particular PIN. There is also a system of

To succeed in their mission, the authorities have developed a system that would allow them to intercept communications. In other words a kind of spyware.This kind of tool was developed not too long ago by the French authorities. I am waiting to communicate it, it was about precisely three "technical devices". The first allowed them to have access to communication, bypassing encryption."It has been possible to access the communications, in an unencrypted way, of many users of the communication solution involved in criminal activities," the French authorities said. As for the other two devices, they preferred not to comment on the subject.

Collaboration with the Dutch authorities begins precisely from April 2019. "Over the past few months, the Joint Investigation Team has intercepted, shared and analyzed millions of messages between criminals to plan for serious offences. For a significant part, these messages were read by law enforcement in real time, without the knowledge of the senders," the statement said.

At this time, there is no full balance sheet that has been released regarding the transaction. However, according to the Dutch authorities, some suspects have been arrested, as well as the seizure of drugs, weapons, liquid silver and the dismantling of several clandestine synthetic drug laboratories. According to Eurojust's press release, the information gathered during the various judicial interceptions will help to inform nearly 300 investigations.

Given the pace towards which the events tended, the network preferred to take the lead and not seek to fight. On June 13, 2020, Encrochat warned all of its customers, through message, that there was an intersection operation that was led by "government entities." In its warning, the network ask its customers to get rid of their phone. According to the report published by Vice, Encrochat had repeatedly tried to get rid of the interception device put in place by the authorities, and this through several updates. But that was hardly lost. She then preferred to move on to the warning stage.

So far, no authority has served whether it is responsible for the design of the network were also arrested during the wave of arrests. However, during the communication of the French gendarmerie it could be remembered that "anyone who presents himself as a leader, representative or director of the companies behind this service is invited to make himself known and to make his arguments to the gendarmerie services."

For users of good faith who would like their data to be deleted, the armory house invites them to contact them at: contact.encrochat@gendarmerie.interieur.gouv.fr.

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