Dutch police hack into criminal chat service; hundreds of suspects
The Dutch police made a breakthrough in intercepting encrypted messages between criminals. They gained access to the server of chat app Ironchat and could read messages sent between criminals as they were sent, the police announced on Tuesday afternoon. Over a hundred suspects were identified and many arrests will follow, NU.nl reports.
"With this, the police and the Public Prosecution Service have dealt a blow to criminals who felt safe from the authorities", the police said. The criminals used so-called cryptophones, which cost thousands of euros. They thought they could communicate safely through encrypted messaging service Ironchat. But the police managed to gain access to the app's server and decrypt the messages. During the operation the police were able to read 258 thousand messages live.
"This information can lead to decisive breakthroughs in investigations", the police said. A large number of suspects have already been arrested. Multiple searches were done in various locations in the country. The police found automatic weapons, money, soft and hard drugs, and ecstasy labs. The information obtained can play an important role in "probably more than a hundred cases".
The app's server and website were taken offline by the police. The two owners, a 46-year-old man from Lingewaard and a 52-year-old man from Boxtel, were arrested. They are suspected of money laundering and participation in a criminal organization.
The police also came across messages in which criminals were preparing a retaliatory action against other criminals. "The chats showed that criminals suspected each other of leaking information to the police and that a retaliatory action was being prepared", the police said. The police decided to intervene on Tuesday and three men between the ages of 23 and 33 from Almelo and Enschede were arrested. They are also suspected of drug trafficking.