Encrypted message app Exclu shut down by police following criminal allegations

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Encrypted messaging app Exclu has been dismantled and its founders arrested following reports its founders were operating a service used by various criminals, including drug lords.

Police in the Netherlands ran two investigations, one from September 2020, and one from April 2022, receiving help from Eurojust, Europol, as well as police forces in Italy, Sweden, France, and Germany. A total of 79 targeted searches were conducted in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, 22 of which happened in the Netherlands.

In total, 42 people were arrested, including 11 people believed to be directly connected to the Exclu platform - two of them are allegedly owners and managers of the platform. Others were various criminals, including operators of a drug lab which were found in possession of “narcotics, firearms, and over 4 million euros in cash”.  

Dozens arrested

Exclu was an encrypted subscription-based communications platform, which people could get for €800 for six months. It offered multimedia communication, in which people could share text messages, voice messages, images, and videos. 

Citing police reports, BleepingComputer claims the app had 3,000 users, 750 of which were based in the Netherlands. 

Before dismantling the app and arresting the people, the police say it managed to “hack” into the app and obtain communication data. Taking into account previous such events (when the police did the same for ANOM, or Sky, both of which were encrypted communications platforms used by criminals), it’s safe to assume that there will be more arrests, as the police go through larger sets of data. Just in ANOM’s case, there had been more than 800 arrests so far. 

The police have also urged innocent people using the platform for its privacy benefits - lawyers, doctors, etc - to come forth and demand their data be removed. 

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.