Europol Hacks World’s Largest Cryptophone Network Sky ECC, Makes Multiple Arrests
Belgian, Dutch and French police ‘looked over shoulders’ of gangs after infiltrating into the Sky ECC network.
Thanks to a joint operation of the Belgian, Dutch, and French police that covered the monitoring of encrypted communication channels due to the unlocking of the Sky ECC network, European law enforcement agencies have managed to make several arrests.
MAJOR INTERVENTIONS TO BLOCK ENCRYPTED COMMUNICATIONS OF CRIMINAL NETWORKS:#Europol and @Eurojust have supported 🇧🇪🇫🇷🇳🇱 in a major international operation, disrupting #SkyECC, an encrypted network used by criminals. Read more: https://t.co/NeWio8bICP
— Europol (@Europol) March 10, 2021
Currently used by around 170,000 people from all over the world, the network is advertised as a “global leader in secure messaging technology”, with servers in the U.S., Canada, and some European countries distributing more than 3 million messages per day.
Europol released an official statement introducing the benefits of this joint operation:
By successfully unlocking the encryption of Sky ECC, the information acquired will provide insights into criminal activities in various EU Member States and beyond and will assist in expanding investigations and solving serious and cross-border organized crime for the coming months, possibly years.
What’s more, Belgian and Dutch police discovered an entire network of laboratories where crystal methamphetamine and other drugs were being produced. They seized a massive 8,000 kilograms of cocaine estimated to be worth €20 million.
The investigation began when Belgian authorities requisitioned suspects’ smartphones with Sky ECC. Since mid-February, specialists managed to unlock encryption in this application to monitor the communications of at least 70,000 platform users through hundreds of thousands of messages:
Law enforcement in all three countries has been on a continuous standby during the last month to be able to provide rapid reactions to possible dangerous criminal activities when required. The newly acquired information will now be analyzed further.
With this information, Netherlands and Belgium police attained search warrants for several locations, which were raided on March 9th.
Although it is not the first incident of this kind, it is definitely a huge step in the fight against cybercrime. Last year, hundreds of suspects were taken into custody by European police agencies after successfully managing to infiltrate into communication platform EncroChat. Shortly after this incident, Sky ECC’s popularity began to increase.
Despite the results of the investigation, Sky ECC denied it had been hacked. They admitted, however, that phony devices that were sold through unauthorized channels have been compromised by a phishing application.
SKY ECC has not been contacted by any investigative authority. SKY ECC did not authorize or cooperate with the investigative authorities or those involved with the distribution of the fake phishing application. These actions are malicious and SKY ECC is actively investigating and pursuing legal action against the offending individuals for impersonation, false lights, trademark infringement, injurious falsehood, defamation, and fraud.
What’s more, the platform operators have contradicted the Europol version, emphasizing that their reports are untrue.
SKY ECC network remains secure and no authorized SKY ECC device has been hacked. On March 8, 2021, SKY ECC received notification of several articles published in Belgium and the Netherlands alleging that Belgian and/or Dutch authorities have cracked or hacked SKY ECC encrypted communication software. SKY ECC maintains, after a thorough investigation, that all such allegations are false.
Additionally, Sky ECC said that their services are now back to normal and they have not been contacted by any investigative authority.