Police Shut Down Secure Messenger App Sky ECC, Popular with Criminals


Law enforcement officials in the Netherlands and Belgium have shut down Sky ECC, which provides secure messenger services to criminal organizations around the world. According to law enforcement officers, they hacked the platform in mid-February 2021 and were able to intercept messages passing through the company's servers in real time. Thanks to this, they were able to collect information about Sky ECC customers and prevent a number of serious crimes, including kidnapping and murder.


On Tuesday, March 9, law enforcement officials in the Netherlands and Belgium arrested Sky ECC servers and raided both countries. In the Netherlands, Operation Argus searched 75 homes and offices and arrested 30 people. In Belgium, as part of Operation A-Limit, more than 1,500 police officers searched 200 homes and arrested 48 suspects. According to local media, most of the arrests took place in the area of ​​the port city of Antwerp, which is the gateway for drug trafficking to / from Europe.


The Sky ECC messenger was launched last year after police shut down Encrochat, which provides criminals with a secure communication platform and encrypted phones. After the company was closed, the majority of Encrochat clients switched to Sky ECC, and by the end of 2020 the number of users of the new messenger exceeded 70 thousand, of which 11 thousand were in the Netherlands.


Sky ECC's core product was a proprietary mobile application that allowed criminals to exchange encrypted messages over a worldwide network of private servers. The application could be installed on Android smartphones, BlackBerry and iPhone, and it prevented data leakage from the messenger to the operating system or other phone trackers. It also had a self-destruct button, which made it possible in the event of an emergency (for example, arrest) to erase all the contents of the messenger.


Belgian police launched an investigation into Sky ECC last year after seizing a 2.8-tonne container of cocaine in Antwerp and finding a suspicious app on suspects' mobile devices.


Last year, Sky ECC announced a competition for security researchers on its website, promising to pay $ 5 million to anyone who can hack its platform. Law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands and Belgium did not specify how they managed to compromise Sky ECC. It is only known that they were able to intercept the transmitted messages.

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