Encrypted phone network Sky Global has seemingly shut down after European police swooped on users and distributors, and its chief exec was indicted by American prosecutors.
News of the company shutdown was broken by Vice News after raids in Belgium and the Netherlands on Sky ECC users and resellers.
We’re told Canada’s BlackBerry (remember that?) cut off its essential United Endpoint Manager services to Sky following the police crackdown, and that a final message to customers read: “We will shut the services down in 2 hours to allow you find [sic] alternative communications.”
Earlier this month, Uncle Sam’s legal eagles formally accused Sky Global chief exec Jean-Francois Eap, who lives in Canada, of selling encrypted chat devices to drug dealers with the intent of helping them evade the long arm of the law. He was charged with racketeering and conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine and meth, crimes which carry a life sentence in the States.
As we reported, Sky Global provides Nokia, Google, Apple, and BlackBerry smartphones modified to remove their cameras, microphones, and GPS capabilities, and sells subscriptions for its end-to-end encrypted messaging software Sky ECC that comes bundled with the handsets.
Eap told Vice the allegations were “entirely false” and that Sky was a legitimate operation. The company previously described the Sky ECC devices seized in Belgium and the Netherlands as fakes, operated by people who stole Sky’s branding and logos and who were operating without its knowledge.
It seems these claims and counterclaims will end up being tested in courts on both sides of the Atlantic. Police agencies around the Western world have long been keen to paint encrypted mobile phone services as something used exclusively by criminals.
Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which falls squarely into the category of “police agencies that campaign against encryption,” has previously refused to comment on whether it was involved with the raids on Sky ECC users in continental Europe, or whether it is investigating any UK links from those raids. The Sky Global/ECC case bears similarities to that of encrypted chat service EncroChat, which was also shut down by its operators after police officers gained access to the service.
Later court rulings in the UK about the NCA’s use of EncroChat evidence obtained by those foreign police forces confirmed that the agency could lawfully sidestep key legal protections in the Snoopers’ Charter, the law which supposedly regulates online surveillance by organs of the British state. ®