Law enforcement Jul 05, 2020

Criminal Operations Thwarted After British Authorities Infiltrate a Secure Messaging Service

The National Crime Agency has announced the biggest law enforcement operation…

British law enforcement authorities have announced the country’s biggest-ever operation that has crippled thousands of criminal operations as a host of “untouchable” kingpins were apprehended, and millions in cash recovered.

The authorities have intimated the seizure of firearms and drugs after investigators laid traps on a large number of organized criminal groups. In highlight, it is reported that “Mr Bigs” were apprehended – with some of the criminal gangs whose notoriety spanned several years getting rounded up, and about 200 murder plots broken up.

A Successful Multiagency Operation

Details into the international law enforcement operation indicate that agents began working on the case in April 2020. The process began with the infiltration of a secure messaging service used by criminal enterprises for communicative purposes.

The platform, called EncroChat, is said to be a popular platform within criminal corridors as it is used in the organization of illicit drug and weapon imports. Law enforcement agents succeeded in hacking the messaging service to gain access to secret messages that were linked to crime gang masterminds and their chain of illicit operations.

In reflection of the event, the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed that it collaborated with police departments across the UK and a contingent of foreign law enforcement officers in bringing the UK criminal world to its knees.

According to the agency, the operation caused significant ripples across the UK criminal underworld – with the dismantling of kidnaps and gang-related murders, the seizure of 77 guns, grenades, two tonnes of illicit substances, an excess of £54 million cash identified as proceeds of crime, an excess of 28 million Valium pills, 55 luxury cars and 73 designer watches.

While commenting on the successful operation, the director of investigations at NCA Nikki Holland acknowledged the grand scale of the operation by terming it “the broadest and deepest ever UK operation” – while comparing it to a hypothetical scenario where every crime group in the UK is compromised by law enforcement agents.

The director also asserted that the authorities involved in the operation did their due diligence to protect the UK public by apprehending “middle-tier” criminals and the “iconic untouchables” that have long succeeded to stay clear of the police radar for years. The NCA has gathered sufficient evidence to prosecute the arrested persons.

In addition, Home Secretary Priti Patel weighed in on the announcement by highlighting the law enforcement ambition to crack criminal operations beyond communication encryption.

Point to note, the NCA has intimated the existence of another investigation to smoke out individuals that supplied the EncroChat devices.

EncroChat for Criminal Purposes

According to authorities, the secure messaging service was hacked by agents in France and the Netherlands, with outcomes of the infiltration being delivered to the law enforcement agencies in the UK and Interpol.

The NCA reports that about 10,000 EncroChat devices, which make up 20 percent of the world’s total figure, are used in Britain to exclusively meet criminal needs.

The devices are said to be tailored for criminal gangs at a steep cost of £1,500 for every six months of usage. The EncroChat secure messaging service is said to be well protected from possible breaches, as the devices are advertised to persons seeking a tailored platform that offers hardened security.

Specifically, EncroChat caters for a clientele that is highly sensitive about user anonymity – as the platform automatically deletes messages and conducts a data wipe whenever a hacking attempt is detected.

Still, law enforcement agents succeeded at infiltrating the messaging service to fish out criminals. It turns out that EncroChat learnt about the infiltration in mid-June but its clients had failed to understand the extent with which their messages had been breached.



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