Encrochat, the encrypted phone used by cartels and criminals, was hacked by police. Clients are being arrested

A security incident on one of the world’s most secure communication networks has led the Government of Northern Ireland to present multiple individuals to court. This occurred due to a data breach in Encrochat, a company that sells encrypted smartphones to security agencies around the world; it should be clarified that this technology is completely legal and was designed to reinforce the privacy of users.

These smartphones are sold for more than $4,000 and sell them subject to some security processes, although this does not prevent prominent members of organized crime from accessing one of these devices.

In response to this incident, Encrochat sent a security alert recommending that its users destroy their devices after a similar information breach; however, the Irish authorities deployed an operation in a matter of hours, leading to multiple arrests.

Encrochat users cannot make voice calls in a traditional way, as this technology is based on the use of a WiFi signal, so it is only possible to send text messages and images.

In its message, the company referred to the security of users in Europe: “Due to the level of sophistication of the attack and the malware code, we can no longer guarantee the security of your device. We take immediate action on our network by disabling connectivity to combat the attack. It is recommended to physically turn off and dispose of your device immediately.” 

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Just hours later, several people appeared in Irish courts, charged with serious crimes and evidence allegedly drawn from these devices. The persons involved are Michael O’Loughlin, originally from Galway but with an address on Upper Dromore Road in Warrenpoint, who appeared Wednesday at Newry Court in Lisburn.

O’Loughlin faces two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiring to possession of firearms in suspicious circumstances, conspiracy to manufacture or supply forged documentation, conspiracy to steal, conspiracy to convert and transfer criminal property, plus a dozen additional drug-related charges. An officer told the court that the evidence against O’Loughlin “was obtained through an authorized legal authorization that allowed access to its encrypted mobile phone content.”

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency said, “We are aware of reports related to police actions taken against Encrochat, however, we do not routinely confirm or deny the NCA’s involvement in investigations.”