More than 700 suspects have been arrested by UK police, along with the seizure of more than two tonnes of drugs and £54m in cash as part of what’s been described as the “biggest and most significant” operation in the UK against organised crime. It’s been reported that among those arrested are top ranking members of several organised crime groups, people described as “kingpins” with “flashy” lifestyles.
In a series of raids, law enforcement agencies targeted several kinds of organised crime gangs, including those importing drugs, guns and people into the UK. These raids were possible due to intel gathered through a once secure communications network.
Engineered to be secure against law enforcement access and inspection, EncroChat was deployed onto bespoke mobile phones. However, in April of this year user’s data started being gathered after an international team cracked EncroChat’s encryption, but users remained unaware.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has said that “There were 60,000 users worldwide and around 10,000 users in the UK. The sole use was for coordinating and planning the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals.”
The intel that helped form the raids carried out by UK police was provided via Europol by agencies in the Netherlands and France – the team that managed to infiltrate the platform.
At £1,500 for a device preloaded with EncroChat (known as a EncroPhone) for a six month contract, the device was the “go-to” for criminals across Europe. These bespoke mobiles offered users a plethora of features to result in “complete anonymity”. Features of an EncroPhone included encrypted messaging and calls, self-destructing texts and an emergency panic button all built into a custom operating system that was once considered impenetrable.
The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, has said that although the EncroChat servers have been shut down, work against similar devices will continue.