Europol announced today that the takedown of the encrypted mobile communications platform EncroChat led to the arrest of more than 6,600 people and the seizure of $979 million in illicit funds.

EncroChat phones ran a special, hardened version of Android that promised users unbreakable encryption, anonymity, and no traceability.

The service also provided message self-destruct features, panic device wipe, tamper-proof boot, and a brute force-resistant FIPS 140-2 certified hardware cryptographic engine.

These features were popular with criminals who wanted to communicate securely. So tens of thousands of people paid €1,500 ($1,635) for a six-month subscription with global coverage and 24/7 support.

The EncroChat phones themselves were sold for a one-time payment of €1,000 ($1,090) and were remotely erasable if needed.

Covert Communications Surveillance

In 2020, a large European law enforcement operation quietly infiltrated the EncroChat platform and was able to analyze millions of messages shared among its users after breaking the encryption algorithm.

Since then, police units in France and the Netherlands working in coordination with their counterparts in other countries have arrested 6,558 peopleEncroChat users, including 197 high-value targets.

This was made possible by analyzing 115 million conversations between approximately 60,000 platform users.

Thanks to this data, the police managed to locate and seize 270 tons of drugs, 971 vehicles, 271 goods, 923 weapons, 68 explosives, 40 planes and 83 boats.

Additionally, law enforcement officers collected 740 million euros ($807 million) in cash and froze a further 154 million euros ($168 million).

Assets seized since the 2020 dismantling
Assets seized since EncroChat was taken down in 2020 (Europol)

Europol reports that most EncroChat users were either members of organized crime (34.8%) or drug traffickers (33.3%). The rest were involved in money laundering (14%), murder (11.5%) and firearms trafficking (6.4%).

EncroChat User Types
EncroChat User Types (Europol)

Arrested EncroChat users have so far been sentenced to a total of 7,134 years in prison, although not all of them have yet been sentenced.

It should be noted that after the withdrawal of EncroChat, many of its users migrated to an alternative service called ‘Sky ECC‘, which operated as a legal entity.

Europol and investigators from various European cyberpolice units broke Sky ECC’s encryption and monitored communications between around 70,000 users.

On March 9, 2021, Belgian and Dutch police carried out simultaneous raids on the homes of high-value targets, resulting in numerous arrests and seizures of assets.

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