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Encrypted Messaging App Exclu Used by Criminal Groups Cracked by Joint Law Enforcement

Feb 07, 2023Ravie LakshmananEncryption / Privacy

A joint law enforcement operation conducted by Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland has cracked yet another encrypted messaging application named Exclu used by organized crime groups.

Eurojust, in a press statement, said the February 3 exercise resulted in the arrests of 45 individuals across Belgium and the Netherlands, some of whom include users as well as the administrators and owners of the service,

Authorities also launched raids in 79 locations, leading to the seizure of €5.5 million in cash, 300,000 ecstasy tablets, 20 firearms, and 200 phones. Two drug laboratories have further been shut down.

Investigation into Exlcu is said to have commenced in Germany as far back as June 2020. The application, prior to its takedown, had an estimated 3,000 users, of which 750 are Dutch speakers.

The Politie, in an announcement of its own, noted that it was able to gain covert access to the service, permitting the agency to read messages sent by its users for the past five months.

“Exclu makes it possible to exchange messages, photos, notes, voice memos, chat conversations, and videos with other users,” the Politie said. “Exclu is praised by its owners and managers for its high level of security.”

Offered for €500 for a three-month license or for €900 for a six-month license key, the developers advertise Exclu as the “most sophisticated communication platform” with support for end-to-end encryption (E2EE). Its website and Instagram account are still operational as of writing.

It also claims to have “integrated the most sophisticated encryption protocols in the world to ensure no one gets access to your data.”

“Users of ‘Exclu’ are to be attributed to organized crime and in particular to drug trafficking,” Germany’s Federal Police said. “The operators of the service are accused of having supported their customers in committing these crimes with a supposedly secure communication channel.”

The crackdown on Exclu follows the successful dismantling of similar messaging apps like EncroChat and Sky ECC in 2020 and 2021 for their use as a haven for criminal actors.


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