The European Law Enforcement Authorities or Europol had conducted a large number of arrests following a joint operation. The joint operation had included monitoring organized crime communication channels after they unlocked the Sky ECC chat service’s encryption.
Sky ECC had been advertised as a secure messaging platform and used by nearly 1,70,000 people across the globe. The chat service’s servers located in Canada, Europe and the U.S. had been used for exchanging over three million messages per day. Over 20% of the user base of the platform had been located in the Netherlands and Belgium.
“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,” Europol said in a press release published today.
The investigation had commenced as the Belgium police had seized the cell phones from those criminals who had used Sky ECC. After the law enforcement authorities had unlocked the encryption of the chat service, they have been able to monitor the communications between approximately 70,000 users of the platform.
“By successfully unlocking the encryption of Sky ECC,” Belgium, France, and Netherlands investigators were able to gain “invaluable insights” into hundreds of millions of messages sent by criminals part of large-scale organized crime groups (OCGs) over the encrypted communication service.”
“The continuous monitoring of the illegal Sky ECC communication service tool by investigators in the three countries involved has provided invaluable insights into hundreds of millions of messages exchanged between criminals,” Europol added.
“This has resulted in the collection of crucial information on over a hundred of planned large-scale criminal operations, preventing potential life threatening situations and possible victims.”
On Wednesday, the 9th of March 2021, several arrests, seizures and house searches had been made in the Netherlands and Belgium.
“The operation is an essential part of the continuous effort of judiciary and law enforcement in the EU and third countries to disrupt the illegal use of encrypted communications,” Europol added.
A year ago, European law enforcement agencies had also arrested hundreds of suspects in various other suspects in multiple countries. This was done after the EncroChat communication platform had been cracked. The international criminal networks used the EncroChat phones running on both the EncroChat OS and the Android OS to communicate over the encrypted channels. Several EncroChat users had switched to the brand new platform after the takedown of EncroChat, as stated by Europol.
“SKY ECC platform remains secure and no authorized SKY ECC device has been hacked,” a notice on Sky ECC’s site reads.
“On the 8th of March, 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 thorough investigation, that all such allegations are false.”
The company had revealed that all the statements of the company’s service encryption being cracked are false. The hacked software had been running on the cloned devices for a fake phishing application that had been designed to impersonate the Sky ECC application.
Furthermore, it added that none of the judicial or law enforcement authorities had reached out regarding this investigation. The company had firmly denied any allegation on the statement “platform of choice for criminals.”
Source: Bleeping Computer
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