UK Cops Score Legal Win In EncroChat Snooping Case

The UK’s National Crime Agency has partially won an important legal battle in a case that challenged the warrants used to obtain messages from cyber crook hangout EncroChat.

EncroChat offered an encrypted phone and mobile service for just $1,500 a month – and you thought your mobile bill was bad – which was chiefly used by criminals to organize their schemes and scams out of reach of the cops. The service was busted in an international operation in 2022. This led to arrests, and the seizure of drugs, guns, and tens of millions of quid in cash. There were over 60,000 accounts to look through, too.

In a decision issued Thursday, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that the National Crime Agency (NCA) “did not fail in any material respect in fulfilling the duty of candour” when it obtained a targeted equipment interference (TEI) warrant allowing the plod to access tons of private messages stored on EncroChat devices.

These communications were eventually used as evidence to arrest nearly 3,000 people in Britain.

The tribunal also said the NCA was not legally required to obtain a bulk equipment interference warrant to obtain the EncroChat messages lawfully.

However, while the TEI warrant allowed the cops to collect communications stored on a device – and thus, according to the tribunal, was obtained legally – there’s a different type of warrant that UK authorities must obtain to intercept messages in transit. 

The tribunal said it didn’t reach a determination about whether

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