Encrypted Phone Crack No Silver Bullet against Balkan Crime Gangs

When a French and Dutch-led police operation cracked the code to Sky ECC in February 2021, investigators gained access to a treasure trove of real-time evidence against a host of international crime gangs. 

Thousands of people have been arrested around the world based on the Sky ECC takedown; in the Balkans, Saric is the biggest, but he is far from alone.

In Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro and Slovenia, almost 100 people have been arrested and charged as a result of evidence obtained from Sky ECC communications and passed on by the French and Dutch, for crimes involving drug trafficking, murder, and kidnapping. On the same day as Saric was arrested in the Serbian capital, police in neighbouring Croatia rounded up 10 in a joint operation with police in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain.

Sky ECC indictment

In March 2021, US authorities indicted Jean-Francois Eap, chief executive officer of Sky Global, the company behind Sky ECC, and Thomas Herdman, a former high-level distributor of Sky Global devices, accusing them of conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO. Eap issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

Sky devices offered self-destructing messages, an encrypted vault and a panic button in the event the user believed the device had been compromised. Sky ECC was installed exclusively on secure devices from Apple, Google and Blackberry, which could be bought online. All that was required of a user was to pay a subscription.

Cheered on by tabloids, authorities in various Balkan countries claim they are taking the fight to the organised crime gangs. Case closed, apparently.

Behind the headlines, however, experts question whether...

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