The network’s owner has been arrested on suspicion of supporting organised crime
Police in the Netherlands said they have arrested the owner of Ennetcom, a provider of encrypted mobile communications services for about 19,000 users, saying they believe the network was used for organised crime.
The crackdown on Ennetcom shed light on the encryption arms race between law enforcement agencies and those seeking to conceal their communications using encryption.
‘Organised crime’ tool
Law enforcement bodies, including those in the UK, have criticised the rapid expansion of encrypted communications as hindering the efforts of security services.
Danny Manupassa, 36, is to be held for 14 days on suspicion of money laundering and illegal possession of weapons, Rotterdam judges said.
In a message on its website Ennetcom denied the allegations and said it had chosen to take its services offline.
“Ennetcom regrets this course of events and insinuations towards Ennetcom. It should be clear that Ennetcom stands for freedom of privacy,” the company stated.
Ennetcom provides BlackBerry handsets modified to send encrypted messages, with the secure messaging servers for these services located mostly in Canada.
Prosecutors said devices sold by the company had been linked to crime, and were repeatedly uncovered in investigations into drugs cases, criminal motorcycle gangs and gangland killings.
Server data copied
Data from the company’s servers in Canada was copied in cooperation with Toronto police, prosecutors said. They didn’t comment on whether or how the data could be decrypted.
All 19,000 of Ennetcom’s users were sent a message last week notifying them of the investigation, according to reports.
In January, the Netherlands’ national forensics agency confirmed it was able to read messages sent from devices of the kind sold by Ennetcom, sometimes referred to as “BlackBerry PGP” handsets, after evidence taken from such a device was reportedly used to help successfully prosecute a suspect in a Dutch drugs transport case.
The agency was reported to be using technology developed by Israel-based mobile tools maker Cellebrite to decrypt messages on BlackBerry PGP handsets.
Cellebrite was also consulted by the FBI in its recent effort to unlock an iPhone used by San Bernardino terrorist shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. The FBI disclosed that it eventually paid hackers more than $1m to unlock the device.