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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Police Cracked Encrypted Messaging Platform led to Hundreds of Arrests

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Europol has recently arrested 78 people, among which 48 people are from Belgium and 30 from the Netherlands in an operation against several organized crime groups operating using an encrypted messaging platform known as Sky ECC. 

Apart from this, police have also searched 275 homes and offices in both countries. While in mid-February, the authorities reported that they had already managed to observe the information stream of about 70000 users of the Sky ECC.

The whole operation was successful only after the investigators managed to crack the encryption of the Sky ECC communication system, and till now it was presented as the safest messaging platform in the world.

Sky ECC

The Sky ECC is a company that is operating from Canada and the United States and its actual roleplay is to sell commercial smartphones protected with an installed app that encrypts communications, self-destructs messages, and whose hardware is not manipulable.

Currently, about 170,000 Sky ECC smartphones are in circulation globally, among which 6000 users are from Belgium, and in the Netherlands 12000. 

These smartphones are equipped with encryption software from Sky ECC that can only receive text messages, voice messages, and pictures from other users of the service. The price of the smartphone is waves between 800 and 2200 euros for a 6-month of subscription. 

While the company has claimed that the users who were arrested are using a pirated version of its app, that could be vulnerable.

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office has acknowledged that the 48 people who were arrested are suspected of being part of an organization that allegedly supplied encrypted smartphones to the criminal groups. 

More than 200 explorations were executed in Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi, and Liege, in a police operation that is contemplated as the largest ever organized in the country.

Seized drugs, weapons, and labs

In this operation, they have seized more than 1.2 million euros and confiscated 17 tons of cocaine, 15 prohibited weapons, including 6 firearms, 8 luxury vehicles, 3 money counting machines, police uniforms, and GPS beacons.

According to the Dutch Police and Prosecutor’s Office, this international joint operation was named “Argus.” Earlier, the police officials had seized thousands of kilos of cocaine, heroin, hashish, various types of weapons, billions of euros, and also dismantled several active drug labs. All these joint actions led to the arrest of 43 suspects in the Netherlands in a previous operation.

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