There are several factors in the Encrochat operation that might have impact on the reliability of the evidence. Encro-phones were designed to prevent mobile forensics and to limit law enforcement's ability to investigate digital data related to criminal activities.
The digital forensic examiners had to developed ad hocmethods to infiltrate the network and collect the data, but this aspect has been largely overlooked by the press and the legal examination of the case so far. The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) acknowledged that they cooperated with the French RCGN –the Cyberunit of the French gendarmerie – in the project Cerberus, which developed the “advanced methods and techniques to crack encrypted information of criminals” used to infiltrate the Encrochat network. France denies any Dutch participation in the operation itself. Nevertheless, the NFI was responsible for a sub-project which developed “methods specifically for anti-GPU algorithms, a security that is increasingly used today, including in mobile phones”.
Interestingly, with such methods a vulnerability in the Direct Memory Access(DMA) capabilities of a mobile GPU can be exploited for a privilege escalation in order to circumvent the encryption(Danisevskis et al., 2014), which corroborates with the UK expert witness testimony on how the Encrochat phones were accessed.
In any case the quality of the Encrochat investigation process cannot be accessed without evaluation of the scientific validity of the digital forensics work. As the digital forensic methods and tools are ad hoc developed the only possibility to assess their reliability is to get access to forensic reports and chain of custody documentation which can demonstrate data integrity preservation and reliability validation. (Sommer, 2022), (Antwi-Boasiako et al., 2017)
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