Encryption Europe’s position about the Encrochat case

September 1, 2020

One of the 3 objectives of Encryption Europe is to engage in a dialogue with authorities confronted with the need for decrypting communications and devices so that encryption is not perceived as a threat to but as an element of security.

Recent events in the Encrochat case have shed some light on how cryptography can be used for criminal activities.

We consider that the right to privacy and confidentiality of communication must be protected at all costs and that the fight against serious crime cannot be used as a pretext to renounce these fundamental rights.

According to Jean-Luc Putz, magistrate, and author of the book “Computer crime in Luxembourg law”, forcing all operators to give their keys to the authorities will probably only make it possible to catch “petty criminals” who still not figured out what precautions they should take. The others will quickly find or create alternative solutions.

The Luxembourg public prosecutor’s office has identified several obstacles to the prosecution of criminal acts. These are as follows:

- The slowness of international legal assistance in the face of the volatility of evidence on the Internet

- The duration, the diversity of the duration, or even the total absence of data retention according to the States

- Encryption

- Means making the identification of the suspect more difficult (Darknet, peer-to-peer)

- New means of payment

- The mass of data to be analysed

Encryption is, therefore, one of the “concerns” noted by investigators, but not the only one or the main one.

In the EncroChat case, it was a painstaking work of investigation that enabled investigators to dismantle the criminal network. International legal assistance was intense and allowed for the analysis of large amounts of data.

In general, we observe that it is the quality of the work of investigators, their ability to analyze a large amount of data, and to cooperate on an international level that is decisive in the repression of large organized criminal networks.

Professionals in the field know that intelligence and traditional methods of investigation are still relevant today. The digital world with artificial intelligence and dark web analysis tools can also provide valuable tools for the digital dimension of police work.

But the authorities’ access to any form of encrypted communication would be of very limited benefit to law enforcement. Much too limited in comparison with the damage this would cause to Fundamental Rights and Democracy.

Joint Eurojust-Europol press release: http://www.eurojust.europa.eu/press/PressReleases/Pages/2020/2020-07-02b.aspx