The Dutch police announced that they dismantled the Exclu encrypted communications platform after hacking into the service to monitor the activities of criminal organizations.
The operation consisted of two separate investigations starting in September 2020 and April 2022, when the police also carried out 79 targeted searches in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Belgium. The authorities arrested 48 people who were users, operators and administrators of the Exclu crypto communications service.
Eurojust, Europol, and the police forces in Italy, Sweden, France, and Germany also assisted in the law enforcement operations.
Two of the arrested individuals are allegedly the owners and managers of the encrypted telecommunications platform. The remaining were users of the Exclu service, including drug lab operators holding significant amounts of narcotics, firearms, and over 4 million euros in cash.
In the Netherlands alone, the police searched 22 locations and arrested 11 individuals believed to be connected with the Exclu platform.
The Dutch police used its expertise in technology and cybercrime to hack into the Exclu service, identify its users, and eventually dismantle its infrastructure.
The Exclu service has been dismantled at the moment and no one can use Exclu’s services anymore.
Exclu was selling six-month user subscriptions for €800, allowing users to exchange messages, photos, notes and other communications with users. The app had approximately 3,000 users, 750 based in the Netherlands.
The authorities now possess all communication data, which they are using to continue their investigations. This may lead to discovering additional illegal activity and provide evidence to support charges brought against suspects.
A segment of Exclu’s user base consists of legitimate professionals such as lawyers, investigators, notaries, and doctors, for whom privacy is critical. These individuals may contact the police and request the removal of their data from the seized servers.
People usually use these communication platforms because they promise extreme confidentiality and multiple layers of encryption and security. Exclu claims on its website that it’s end-to-end encrypted, offers remote device wiping capabilities, and other security features.
Not so popular crypto-phone services like Exclu are not easily detected and targeted by law enforcement authorities, allowing their existence to remain a secret from the general public for years.