Cops Hacked Thousands of Phones. Was It Legal?

For a week in October 2020, Christian Lödden’s potential clients wanted to talk about only one thing. Every person whom the German criminal defense lawyer spoke to had been using the encrypted phone network EncroChat and was worried their devices had been hacked, potentially exposing crimes they may have committed. “I had 20 meetings like this,” Lödden says. “Then I realized—oh my gosh—the flood is coming.”

Months earlier, police across Europe, led by French and Dutch forces, revealed they had compromised the EncroChat network. Malware the police secretly planted into the encrypted system siphoned off more than 100 million messages, laying bare the inner workings of the criminal underground. People openly talked about drug deals, organized kidnappings, planned murders, and worse.

The hack, one of the largest ever conducted by police, was an intelligence gold mine—with hundreds arrested, homes raided, and thousands of kilograms of drugs seized. But it was just the beginning. Fast-forward two years, and thousands of EncroChat users across Europe—including in the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands—are in jail. 

However, a growing number of legal challenges are questioning the hacking operation. Lawyers claim investigations are flawed and that the hacked messages should not be used as evidence in court, saying rules around data-sharing were broken and the secrecy of the hacking means suspects haven’t had fair trials.

Full story at