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Police Arrest Creators of Exclu Encrypted Crime App

German customs officers show a bag of confiscated cocaine at a press conference March 4, 2012 in Hamburg, Germany.
Photo: Jorn Pollex (Getty Images)

Police close shadow encrypted monday messaging app it was supposedly used by organized crime figures to facilitate the transfer of drugs, cash, and firearms throughout Europe. Then they grabbed people who supposedly coded it.

Cops arrested 42 users, operators and administrators of the Exclu encrypted messaging service after dozens of raids in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. perennial, A multinational investigation that began in 2020 reportedly resulted in the confiscation of millions of dollars worth of cocaine, cash and guns.

What did the police find on Exclu?

The Dutch police were reportedly were able to break into the Exclu system, which gave them access to fivemonths-the cost of messages transferred between users before raids. Possible raids uncovered at least two major drug laboratories and a cocaine processing plant. Collectively, the raids uncovered several kilograms of drugs, an assortment of luxury goods and firearms, and $4.3 million in cash. Police agencies in France, Italy, Sweden and Europol played a role in the investigation.

Exclu, the supposedly messaging app at the heart of drug operations positions itself as having “the world’s most sophisticated encryption protocols”. Service, in accordance with The Associated Press only managed to attract about 3,000 users, almost a third of them are based in the Netherlands. Exclu sold the service as a smartphone app for an $860 license for six months. Police report drug trafficking suspects used app to share photos, notes, voice notes, chats and videos with each other.

The company said that in addition to end-to-end encryption he provided customers can remotely wipe devices and return them to factory defaults. The company’s mission, according to its website, is to “encrypt everything.”

“Our mission is to advise [sic] people how to securely encrypt all traffic and protect internal files and documents from sophisticated hacking attempts,” writes Exclu.

The dramatic drug busts were originally linked to two separate investigations into the messaging service: one conducted by the Dutch police to check on the owners and managers of the company, and the other a separate German investigation that looked into the app’s users. In both cases, the police suspected that the managers and users of Exclu were linked to organized crime.

“The Exclu service was dismantled and the data was obtained through the application of special knowledge and experience in the field of technology and cybercrime, as well as using hacking capabilities,” the Dutch police said. in accordance with NL Times. “In addition, detectives also used traditional investigative techniques to successfully identify app users.”

Regulators have resumed checking encrypted messages

The drug busts in several countries come amid renewed concern from crypto advocates that European regulators, often seen as champions of digital privacy, may be preparing to ban certain messaging tools. Last summer the European Commission proposed new controversial regulation this would require messaging apps to scan their users’ private messages for signs of child sexual abuse material or so-called “grooming” behavior. The regulation, if passed, would potentially apply to small encrypted messaging apps as well as larger and more established encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Critics of the regulation, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say that poses a direct threat to encrypted messaging because it “would require an infrastructure for fine-grained analysis of user communications.” The regulation specifically targets CSAM-related content, but encryption advocates say there is a risk that it and other encryption weakening tools could be extended to other areas of interest.

“Is breaking the encryption the only way to solve this problem? I can tell you that’s not true,” Proton CEO Andy Yen, whose company specializes in encrypted communications, said in a recent interview. interview discusses regulation with Wired. “We always need to find the right balance. And for me, the requirement to undermine, weaken or break encryption is not the right balance.

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