Deprived of their beloved Encro phones, what are Britain’s top drug criminals now using to communicate with their importers, transporters and distributors?
Crime experts who spoke to VICE World News said most were using a combination of encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram, WhatsApp and Signal, and old school face-to-face meetings.
However despite the successes of the busts in injecting a heavy dose of paranoia into Europe’s underworld, there could be a sting in the tail for law enforcement.
“There are multiple issues around the legality of using EncroChat messages as evidence,” said Peter Sommer, a visiting professor of Digital Forensics at Birmingham City and De Montfort Universities. “The issues vary between different European jurisdictions but all arise from the novelty of the investigatory method and the refusal of the French authorities to provide detailed explanations.”
Ever since the hack was announced two years ago, there have been a series of legal challenges to the legitimacy of using the data to arrest, prosecute and convict people. Police and prosecutors in the UK were accused of using the wrong warrant in order to access the encrypted messages, but this was rejected by a high court judge.
Then it was alleged that the information could not be used as evidence in criminal proceedings because it was “intercepted” data. But a Court of Appeal judge said the messages were not grabbed during transmission, but when they were stored, and therefore the data was admissible.
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