Users of encrypted EncroPhones saw this message on their phones on June 16th and immediately feared the worst. The bulletin message read…

ENCROCHAT MALWARE BREACHED SYSTEMS

Bulletin Message

Important Security Notice Date Issued: 2020-06-12 Date Viewed: 2020-06-13

Today we had our domains seized illegally by government entities. They repurposed our domain to launch an attack to compromise carbon units.

With control of our domain, they managed to launch a malware campaign against the carbon to weaken its security.

Due to the level of sophistication of the attack and the malware code, we can no longer guarantee the security of your device. We took immediate action on our network by disabling connectivity to combat the attack.

You are advised to power off and physically dispose of your device immediately. Period of compromise was about 30 minutes and the best we can ascertain was about 50% of the carbon devices in Europe (due to the Updater schedule).

Do You need a EncroChat Solicitors

Why are Encrypted phones popular?

Encryption is popular with a number of industries, not just the criminal fraternity. There are many genuine reasons why someone wants to keep their affairs private. It could be for financial reasons, or because they are doing sensitive commercial work and are worried about industrial espionage.

And let’s not forget that WhatsApp and Facebook messenger is also encrypted messaging technologies.

So why was EncroChat singled out?

The hack by various Europe-wide law enforcement agencies was targeted at what is perceived as a network designed for criminals.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said that the EncroChat network had been breached in April this year. It stated explicitly that the phones were mainly being used by criminals.

“The sole use was for coordinating and planning the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals.”

“Unbeknown to users, the NCA and the police have been monitoring criminals every move since April,” an NCA spokesperson said.

It is the biggest and most significant operation of its kind in the UK.”

So what has actually happened to alleged criminals who may have been using EncroChat services?

In Ireland, a man has already appeared in court on an alleged conspiracy to murder charges, firearms and drug offences. Much of the evidence is said to come from Encrochat communications.

It’s clear that up to 50% of Encrochats users may have had their communications intercepted.

And according to https://omertadigital.com/ and an undisclosed source, it is alleged that the Government agents “spent 8 weeks reviewing communications. Armed with this data, users were located and arrested. The impact included a significant rise in seizures of contraband because communications had been monitored for weeks.”

So far reports indicate 746 arrests across the UK, including “high-value targets” and “iconic” fugitives who had previously escaped justice. The operation has also allegedly revealed the identities of an unknown number of corrupt police officers and employees in different law enforcement agencies.

How many people could be affected?

With tens of thousands of users of EncroChat-enabled phones, it looks like many more people will be arrested and charged over the next few weeks. Innocent users of the EncroChat-enabled phones are very likely to get caught up in investigations. Arrests are likely to multiply as the data is looked at and connections are made.

Is this lawful?

There has since been a wave of search and arrest operations in the UK and Ireland, many of which are allegedly linked to encrypted phone evidence. This has left many wondering whether the police can lawfully breach encrypted communications – and if not, whether the evidence can be used to convict someone in court.

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. The laws surrounding the access of sensitive encrypted data are complex. The police will likely argue they had authorised clearance to access an encrypted mobile device, as has happened following the Encrochat hack. However, there may still have been a breach of the rules. It all depends on the circumstances.

What should you do if you are caught up in Operation Venetic?

Ashmans Solicitors are experienced criminal defence solicitors offering a nationwide service to anyone caught up in the EncroChat investigation codenamed Operation Venetic.

We have specialised expertise in the area of telecommunications and encryption evidence.

If you or anyone you know want a confidential discussion about defence strategies or are being interviewed by police because of the EncroChat hack, please get in touch. The earlier you do this, the more likely it is that the defence strategy can undermine any prosecution evidence or procedural errors.

We are available 24/7 email us at: enquiries@ashmanssolicitors.com – or call us on 0333 009 6275

 

First Published