Info from encrypted phone hack led to major drug network bust


Information gained from hacking into EncroChat, a provider of encrypted phones, resulted in the police arresting over 100 suspects in the Netherlands over the past period. By gaining access to over 20 million encrypted messages sent with EncroChat phones, the police said they prevented dozens of assassinations, abductions and shootings, intercepted dozens of drug shipments, and dismantled many drug labs, NOS and NRC report.

The Dutch police, working with police and judicial authorities in multiple other countries, hacked into EncroChat's computers, which gave them access to millions of encrypted messages. For two months the authorities were able to spy on communications which criminals believed to be encrypted. Until two weeks ago, when EncroChat warned its users that a government agency penetrated its systems with malware and advised them to get rid of the phones, according to the broadcaster. 

In the Netherlands alone, information from these messages led to at least nine crystal meth labs being dismantled and around a hundred suspects being arrested. Over 8 thousand kilograms of cocaine and 1,200 kilograms of crystal meth were confiscated. As were 20 million euros in cash, dozens of weapons, expensive watches, and cars. The police believe that messages obtained through the EncroChat systems will eventually play a role as evidence in some 300 cases. 

Among the detainees are two leaders in the cocaine trafficking world - Roger P. from Rotterdam and Cetin G. from Schiedam, according to NRC. The police arrested Roger P. last week. His whereabouts were determined based on information gained from the hack, according to the newspaper. Cetin G. was arrested earlier this week as part of a large investigation in collaboration with the Brazilian authorities. In 2016 G. was convicted in the Netherlands for involvement in large-scale cocaine trafficking and sentenced to 14 years in prison - a sentence he is yet to serve. 

According to NRC's sources, the authorities got their hands on much more information in this hack than were confiscated from other encrypted phone providers Ennetcom and PGP Safe in 2016 and 2017.