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Police EncroChat cryptophone hacking implant did not work properly and frequently failed


A surveillance operation that covertly harvested text messages from an encrypted phone network allegedly used by criminals and drug dealers relied on technology that frequently failed and often stopped working.




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A senior technical officer at the National Crime Agency (NCA) disclosed to the Old Bailey that French-designed software implants used to extract supposedly encrypted text messages from the EncroChat cryptophone network were unreliable.


French police accessed millions of supposedly encrypted messages and photographs from EncroChat phones in multiple countries in a hacking operation between March and June 2020.


The European police agency, Europol, shared copies of data extracted from around 6,000 UK-based EncroChat phones with the UK’s National Crime Agency.


Luke Shrimpton, senior technical officer at the NCA, and forensic expert Duncan Campbell disclosed in a joint report that the French implant had technical problems, during a trial at London’s Old Bailey over an alleged drug-related conspiracy to murder.


“In broad and general terms, we agree that records show that the implant and processing system were not reliable, in that the implants frequently and often stopped working, unless or until restarted,” according to an extract of the report read out in court.


The experts said French secrecy laws meant it was impossible to say why the interception technology did not work reliably.


“By reason of French secrecy laws, neither of us has any knowledge of how the implants or the implant processing system were designed or operated, nor why they broke down,” they said in the report.



 


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