Exclu’s encrypted messaging app under police crosshairs
The encrypted messaging application called Exclu, used by organized crime groups, was hacked in a joint law enforcement operation conducted by Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.
Eurojust, in a press release, said the Feb. 3 operation led to the arrest of 45 people in Belgium and the Netherlands, some of whom include users, administrators and owners of the service.
Authorities in the three countries also launched raids in 79 locations, leading to the seizure of 5.5 million euros in cash, 300,000 ecstasy tablets, 20 firearms and 200 phones. Two pharmaceutical laboratories were shut down. The suspects are charged with drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal possession of weapons and robbery.
The investigation of Exlcu is said to have begun in Germany as early as June 2020. The app, prior to its removal, had about 3,000 users, 750 of whom were Dutch speakers.
Politie, in an announcement of its own, said it was able to gain secret access to the service, allowing it to read messages sent by users over the past five months.
“Exclu allows users to exchange messages, photos, notes, voice memos, chat conversations and videos with other users,” Politie said. “Exclu is valued by its owners and managers for its high level of security.”
Offered at €500 for a three-month license and €900 for a six-month license key, the developers advertise Exclu on their site thus “Our application has multiple use cases. Use it for encrypted chat or email communication and store files and notes locally in the encrypted and compartmentalized vault. Our communication platform has integrated the world’s most sophisticated encryption protocols to ensure no one has access to your data.” It then gives support for end-to-end encryption (E2EE). Its website and Instagram account are currently still operational.
The site also claims to have “integrated the world’s most sophisticated encryption protocols to ensure that no one has access to your data.”
“The users of ‘Exclu’ are to be attributed to organized crime and particularly drug trafficking,” the German Federal Police said. “The service operators are accused of helping their clients commit these crimes (drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal possession of weapons and robbery) with a seemingly secure communication channel.”
Exclu’s crackdown follows the successful dismantling of similar messaging apps such as EncroChat and Sky ECC in 2020 and 2021, also used by criminals of various stripes…