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Friday, February 23, 2024

Raids and charges: crypto phone provider Sky Global is offline

The encrypted smartphone service Sky ECC is offline after BlackBerry discontinued the basic service for it. The website has been confiscated by the authorities.

The Canadian provider Sky Global had to discontinue its encrypted communication service Sky ECC after the smartphone manufacturer and service provider BlackBerry more or less turned the tap off. This is reported by the US portal Motherboard with reference to screenshots of internal messages that Sky Global boss Jean-Francois Eap is said to have sent to distribution partners. BlackBerry no longer provides Sky with the basic business customer service on which ECC was based.

So far no risk of communication decryption
“We will shut down the services in 2 hours so that you can find alternative communication options,” the magazine quotes from the messages leaked to it. “Unfortunately, BlackBerry has switched off our UEM services,” said Eap, referring to the “Unified Endpoint Management” service from the previous supplier, which is also based in Canada. With the BlackBerry service, business-to-business users can manage their own wireless services, for example by playing updates or apps on the smartphones they market.

So far, there has been no risk that communication has been decrypted, Eap is said to have written to the sales partner. In future, however, nothing is guaranteed if third parties take full control of the UEM and “push compromised apps onto the device”. They feel compelled to shut down “the service as an additional precaution”.

Alleged hack by investigators was a phishing application
European law enforcement authorities claim they have already managed to hack Sky ECC. Since mid-February, the investigators have been able to monitor the exchange of messages from around 70,000 Sky ECC users , Europol announced last week . In the first raids based on the knowledge gained, law enforcement officers arrested almost 50 people and carried out numerous house searches and seizures in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Sky Global countered that a fake phishing application marketed as Sky ECC had been installed on insecure devices. Similar to the provider Encrochat , which was cracked last year , the company has so far offered special smartphones and associated services in which functions such as cameras, microphones and GPS are deactivated. Exchanged messages are encrypted and automatically deleted after 30 seconds. With a “panic password” all content can be removed from such a device.

Justice Department seized on alleged drug trafficking
The Sky Global and ECC websites have since been seized by US and Canadian law enforcement agencies. They now present a corresponding notice stating an ongoing legal process in Southern California and their badges. The US Department of Justice had previously charged Sky Global with knowingly and intentionally participating in the import and distribution of drugs . Eap suspects a targeted attack “because we are building tools to protect the fundamental right to privacy”. The allegations that “I and our company are involved in criminal activities” are unfounded and false.

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