Cyber chronicle, 07.02.2023, 10:00 AM
Dutch police said on Friday that they have taken down encrypted communications platform Exclu after hacking the service to track the activities of criminal groups, Bleeping Computer reported.
As part of this operation, two separate investigations were conducted, which began in September 2020 and April 2022, and during the operation, the police carried out 79 searches in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium and arrested 42 people.
In addition to the Dutch police, Eurojust, Europol and the police of Italy, Sweden, France and Germany also took part in this operation.
The two arrested are allegedly the owners of the platform. The remaining 40 were Exclu users, including narcotics producers who were found with significant amounts of psychoactive substances, firearms and more than 4 million euros in cash.
In the Netherlands alone, police searched 22 locations and arrested 11 people believed to be connected to the Exclu platform.
Dutch police say they used their expertise in technology and cybercrime to hack Exclu, identify the platform’s users and eventually dismantle its infrastructure.
Exclu sold six-month user subscriptions for 800 euros, allowing users to exchange encrypted messages and audio and video recordings and images. The police noted that the application had about 3,000 users, 750 of them in the Netherlands.
The authorities now have details from the communication of platform users that will be used to continue the investigation. This can lead to the discovery of previously unknown illegal activities and the provision of evidence that could support the charges against the suspects.
However, part of Exclu’s user base consists of professionals in some fields, such as lawyers or investigators, for whom privacy is important. These users are urged to contact the police and request the removal of their data from the seized servers.
Some people use these obscure communication platforms instead of popular ones like Signal because they promise extreme privacy and multiple encryption and security. Since lesser-known services like Exclu can remain unknown to the public and even the police for a long time, they are, for example, a better choice for criminals.
A similar case of the removal of such a platform was the one from July 2020, when the European police dismantled it EncroChat and confiscated data of service users. EncroChat had more than 60,000 users worldwide and sold six-month subscriptions for €1,500, with 24/7 customer support.
The FBI and the Australian Federal Police have created a fake end-to-end encrypted chat platform called ANOM, which made it possible to monitor the activities of criminal groups. This eventually led to the arrest of 800 people.
Cover photo: Sora Shimazaki, Pexels
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