Victor / flickr | Remix by Max Fleishman

Police shutter privacy-focused Dutch phone network for allegedly aiding criminals

The company marketed itself toward business professionals.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Published Apr 22, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 9:58 pm CDT

An encrypted communications network based on €1,500 smartphones has been shut down by Dutch and Canadian police, who say criminals were abusing the service, according to Dutch media.

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Ennetcom, a Dutch tech firm that advertised and sold secure BlackBerry phones, have pulled all their servers offline for a service that had 19,000 users. The company’s owner was arrested in the city of Nijmegen. Dutch media report he’ll be charged, at least, with money laundering.

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Before authorities pulled down Ennetcom’s servers, Dutch and Canadian police copied all the data they contained, targeting organized crime that was allegedly making use of the company’s products. The information obtained will be used in investigations and prosecutions moving forward, but it’s as yet unclear what information authorities were able to actually obtain.

Ennetcom devices came pre-installed with a number of strong encryption technology, including PGP, which is often used for sending secure emails. The company’s slogan, still plastered across its website, is: “One billion connections, zero compromised.”

Ennetcom advertises in particular towards corporate customers and lawyers, groups that might be able to afford the €1,500 price tag.

Police say that organized crime suspects who allegedly used this phone are accused of crimes including murder of rival criminals in the country.

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“There has been an international collaboration of various government agencies and Interpol in attempt to put our network down,” a statement on the company’s website reads. “Regarding the current investigation, Ennetcom is forced to suspend all operations and services for the time being. Ennetcom regrets this course of events and insinuations towards Ennetcom. It should be clear that Ennetcom stands for freedom of privacy!”

The takedown of Ennetcom comes amid a global debate over encryption, which has raged in the Netherlands as it has in the United States.

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Earlier this year, the Dutch government backed strong encryption and condemned so-called “backdoors”—weaknesses in encryption technology—that allow special access for law-enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The Dutch executive cabinet endorsed “the importance of strong encryption for Internet security to support the protection of privacy for citizens, companies, the government, and the entire Dutch economy,” Ard van der Steur, the Dutch minister of security and justice, wrote in the statement. “Therefore, the government believes that it is currently not desirable to take legal measures against the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands.”

The critical details of the Ennetcom case remain unclear.

H/T The Register

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*First Published: Apr 22, 2016, 10:14 am CDT