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#Encrochat New Reports : Operation Emma 95


This investigation launched in 2017 was spearheaded by French police, known as the Gendarmerie. The operation was codenamed “Emma 95” in France, according to the French press kit.


Technical research conducted on EncroChat phones seized by French police revealed that the “encrypted communication solution, not declared in France,” actually hosted some of its “offshore” servers there, according to the French press release.


The servers’ location thus gave French authorities legal jurisdiction to collar the investigation. Partnering first with Dutch authorities, and then EUROPOL, French cyber cops infiltrated the clandestine telecomm network via an ambiguous ‘technical device,’ according to the French press release.


An EncroChat associate described this so-called device to Vice, as a “mass hacking operation.”


Key to the development of the technical device that enabled the hack was research conducted by the Institute for Criminal Research of the National Gendarmerie (IRCGN), according to the French press release.


The IRCGN is the French coordinating entity of an organization known as the CERBERUS project, which is a partnership between the Forensic Laboratory of the Gendarmerie, the Netherlands Forensic Institute, and University College of Dublin to combat child abuse by beating encryption to “unprotect systems.”


This institution was a catalyst for the development of the technical device and “accelerated the the research by the IRCGN concerning these phones,” according to the French press release.


But it took nearly a year to operationalize the exploit, as the press kit says the CERBERUS project’s involvement in the project started in early 2019. The Joint Investigative Team formed by France and the Netherlands, which presumably gave law enforcement officials bilateral legal authorization to comb through unencrypted messages and unmask users, was not formally signed until April 10 of this year.



“Indeed, the CERBERUS project has contributed to the EncroChat hack,” said Gerdarmerie Major Lionel Prat, a CERBERUS project manager. “The research carried out within this framework provided a big boost to certain components of the EMMA 95 operation,” he added.

Despite billing itself as a research organization focused on breaking or cracking passwords, the CERBERUS project “is a very vast project,” notes Major Prat.


“We are looking for all the ways to access the data in clear-text, not necessarily by breaking the encryption or looking for the key/password,” said Pratt. “It is about the search for vulnerabilities, we are no longer in the theme of breaking but the search for ways to ‘bypass’ the encryption.” 


Citing French “national defense secrecy” laws that repress disclosure of elements relating to the technical device, Major Prat declined to comment further.


But an unnamed EncroChat associate told Vicethat the team discovered malware on the cryptophones. This malware was “specifically created for the X2 model,” according to Vice.

Ultimately, French, Dutch, and other European law enforcement agencies were able to surveil communications from “more than a hundred million encrypted messages” exchanged between Encrochat subscribers in real-time. This has led to over a thousand arrests across the UK, Norway, Sweden, France, and the Netherlands this year, according to Europol.


In the aftermath of the sweep, Dutch police said the “advanced and internationally coordinated operation has the same effect as a serious earthquake for organised crime.”


The EncroChat breach has given law enforcement “insight in an unprecedented large number of serious crimes, including large, international drug shipments and drug labs, murders, thrashing robberies, extortions, robberies, grave assaults and hostage takings. International drug – and money laundering corridors have become crystal clear,” said the Dutch press release.



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