European Dismantle of EncroChat Led To 6,500 Arrests & Seizure Of 9 Million Funds

More than 6,500 people were arrested as a result of the takedown of the encrypted phone service platform Encrochat, and 900 million euros ($980 million) worth of assets were confiscated.

Following the work of a joint investigation team (JIT) formed by both nations in 2020 with assistance from Eurojust and Europol, EncroChat was successfully taken down.

Users of EncroChat phones were promised unbreakable encryption, anonymity, and no traceability via a special, hardened version of Android that operated on these devices.

In addition, the service included panic device wipes, tamper-proof booting, and a hardware cryptographic engine that was resistant to brute force attacks and FIPS 140-2 certified. 

With a “panic button” function that may delete all data, EncroChat devices were well-liked by criminals.

The devices might boot into a hidden encrypted partition for safe connection through French servers.

The service was priced at €1,000 per device and €1,500 for a contract of six months.

Additionally, it had features to guarantee the automated deletion of messages and a unique PIN to erase all data stored on the device.

Users would be able to immediately delete compromising messages in this way.

Reports say the encryption tool EncroChat was unlawfully utilized by Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) globally.

Investigators have been able to intercept, analyze, and evaluate approximately 115 million illicit chats since the system was taken down, involving an estimated 60 000 users.

Assets Seized Since The 2020 EncroChat Takedown

  • 6 558 suspects arrested, including 197 High-Value Targets  
  • 7 134 years of imprisonment of convicted criminals up to now
  • EUR 739.7 million in cash seized
  • EUR 154.1 million frozen in assets or bank accounts
  • 30.5 million pills of chemical drugs seized
  • 103.5 tonnes of cocaine seized
  • 163.4 tonnes of cannabis seized
  • 3.3 tonnes of heroin seized
  • 971 vehicles seized
  • 271 estates or homes seized
  • 923 weapons seized, as well as 21 750 rounds of ammunition and 68 explosives
  • 83 boats and 40 planes seized

In further investigation, the company that created the tool was found to be using a French server.

The ability to circumvent encryption and get access to user correspondence eventually became available.

Assets Seized
Encrochat users

Over 115 million messages and data from the JIT partners were evaluated by a large, devoted team of professionals at Europol.

Nearly 700 actionable intelligence packages were delivered to nations across the world by Europol after it cross-checked and analyzed the data and combined it with information from its information systems.

According to Europol, the majority of EncroChat users either participated in organized crime (34.8%) or trafficked drugs (33.3%). The others were engaged in murders (11.5%), money laundering (14.4%), and the trafficking of guns (6.4%).

Types of EncroChat Users
EncroChat by crime

Even though not all of the accused EncroChat participants have received sentences, they have already been found guilty and sentenced to a total of 7,134 years in jail.

Notably, many of EncroChat’s users switched to the alternative service “Sky ECC” when the company was shut down since it was a legitimate business.

Sky ECC’s encryption was broken by Europol and investigators from many European cyber police units, who then saw conversations between some 70,000 users.

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Gurubaran is a co-founder of Cyber Security News and GBHackers On Security. He has 10+ years of experience as a Security Consultant, Editor, and Analyst in cybersecurity, technology, and communications.