Encrochat: What is it and what happened?

Police Lantern
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The latest podcast was a short one due to us trying to fit it into a busy schedule but we got one out which is the main thing. We discussed end-to-end encryption, if we need it and why, as well as covering the EncroChat hack from the very beginning of the month. The controversy surrounding EncroChat has been unfolding throughout the Covid lockdown but, to fully understand the issue, we have to go all the way back to 2016; the year where Trump won his presidency, there was the first vote for Brexit and I was finishing off my GCSEs.

What is Encrochat?

EncroChat is one of many, many brands that work within the encrypted phone market (others include, Phantom Secure, Ghost Phones and Omerta). These phones tend to be Android-based and loaded up with a custom OS with a few added differences to your regular Galaxy S9+. To keep their user from being found, kind of the point of an encrypted phone, the phone may have its GPS system removed as well as the camera and/or microphone. Some come with a remote ‘kill switch’ code that, once activated, wipes the phone of any and all information. They’re almost like a fancier, smarter version of a burner phone.

Apparently, it was initially developed for paranoid celebrities to use to ensure that no-one could access their informaton.

So, What Happened?

On the twelfth of June, all EncroChat-enabled phones received the following important security notice:

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 devices 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.)

It’s been tightly under wraps for the past month or so until, a few weeks ago, every news channel and their dog were talking about it. More than 700 people have been arrested and the catalogue of items seized sounds like your typical Friday night:

  • 77 firearms.
  • 1,800 rounds of ammunition.
  • Grenades.
  • Over 2 tonnes of drugs.
  • 55 high-value cars.
  • £54m in criminal cash.

EncroChat servers have, now, been shut down by the foreign secretary and investigations are still on-going.

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