Police analyst Natalie Mottram, 25, is off to jail for 3 years and 9 months after tipping off a friend that the encrypted chat app she was using was under police surveillance. Mottram, who worked for the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit in England, was arrested in 2020. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to misconduct, obstruction and unauthorized computer access.
Authorities in the U.K. infiltrated EncroChat, then widely-used by crooks, and were able to read private messages and keep track of criminal goings-on. But they had a security problem of their own, The Register reports.
"I [know] a lady who works for the police. This is not hearsay. Direct to me. They can access Encro software. And are using to intercept [firearms] at the moment. [The] software runs 48 hours behind real time. So have ur burns [self-deleting messages] one day max. And try to avoid giving postcodes over it. Her words was are you on Encro, I said no why, I only sell a bit of bud. She said cool just giving you heads up. Because NCA now have access. But she wouldn't lie.:"
Once Mottram was identified as the likely mole, they caught her by giving her fake intel to analyze knowing that it implicated an associate of her friend. Mottram shared it with the friend, and was arrested and charged.
The number of crooks willing to use random proprietary "encrypted chat" apps is startling, though I suppose there's built-in confirmation bias in the publicity. Even so, there's something beautiful about a communication that amounts to "my cop friend informs me this encrypted chat application is under surveillance, so I thought I should use it to warn my list of criminal associates."