‘Reading all Sky ECC messages would take us 685 years,’ police say
Friday, 12 March 2021
Credit: Stock image
Police obtained a wealth of information about the operations of the Belgian criminal underworld after the recent cracking of encrypted messaging service Sky ECC, but now they face tough choices about what to do with it all.
“With a team of 40 police officers to read and contextualise all those messages, it would take 685 years to go through everything,” federal prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw told De Tijd. “Each message takes about five to six minutes. To read everything in one day, you need a team of 11 million Belgians.”
Police say they have already opened hundreds of cases relating to money laundering, corruption, arms trafficking, and violent crime after gaining access to messages sent over the encrypted service, and they expect to open even more over the coming weeks and months.
But choosing which leads to pursue will be a challenge given the sheer amount of data obtained in the cracking.
Some of the more striking messages intercepted include references to an apartment that operated as a “bank counter” for criminal organisations, processing as much as €3 million.
“The tables were covered with banknotes. This is a gigantic parallel economy,” said Van Leeuw.
The investigators intercepted about 1 billion encrypted messages from SKY ECC in total, of which almost half have already been decrypted. Using that information, on Tuesday, they launched the largest police operation to have ever taken place in Belgium.
Around 1,600 police officers were deployed across the country in 200 raids, seizing 17 tons of cocaine, eight luxury cars, three cash machines, police uniforms, and €1.2 million in cash along with various firearms.