Authorities shut down an encrypted messaging app Exclu, a preferred communication choice among organized criminals and drug traffickers.
European law enforcement agencies, including the Dutch and German police, have successfully shut down the app. In a massive operation last week, authorities searched 79 properties in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland and arrested 48 individuals using, operating, or administering Exclu.
During raids, the joined Dutch and Belgium police forces also seized contents of two drug labs, firearms, several kilos of drugs, over €4 million in cash, and various luxury items.
The Exclu app was used extensively by organized criminals and drug gangs and offered end-to-end encryption for messages, photos, notes, and other communications. Exclu also claimed to provide remote device wiping capabilities and other security features assisting illicit activities. According to Dutch police, there were approximately 3,000 users of Exclu, with 750 of them being Dutch speakers.
The Dutch authorities said that legitimate users of Exclu who can invoke legal privilege (e.g. lawyers, civil-law notaries, doctors, or clergy) can contact the police to have their data deleted as long as it does not contain any illegal information.
Investigation began with a Cyberbunker seizure
The German police said that their investigation into Exclu began in 2020 and followed the seizure of Cyberbunker or CB3ROB. Cyberbunker was an internet service provider located in the Netherlands and Germany in an old NATO bunker.
The bunker had a reputation for hosting infamous sites, like The Pirate Bay, and the back-end for the Exclu app. The German authorities were able to decrypt Exclu's services and monitor communications, which the Dutch police spent five months doing before last week's coordinated raids.
Law enforcement agencies and lawmakers worldwide have made encrypted services like Exclu a legislative concern, sparking fears that the only purpose of such software is to subvert the law and that forcing a backdoor into such services is necessary.
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