Encrypted Phones, By Criminals, For Criminals

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Murder in broad daylight. Torture. Attempted car bombings. It seems Scottish crime lords James and Barrie Gillespie, known as “the Brothers,” will stop at nothing to preserve their drug trafficking enterprise. At Motherboard, Joseph Cox reports on MPC, the telephone company they built to make their own encrypted phones for the ultimate in untraceable, impenetrable criminal communication.

Martin Kok had already dodged death once that day. As the 49-year-old Dutch convict turned successful crime blogger left a late lunch at an Amsterdam hotel in December 2016, a hooded man ran up to him, aimed a handgun at point blank range at the back of his head, and prepared to pull the trigger.

But either the assassin lost his nerve or the weapon jammed. CCTV footage later revealed the man ran off across the street, nearly getting hit by two cyclists, and disappeared into the city. Kok continued walking, oblivious.

After leaving the hotel, Kok met with an associate named Christopher Hughes, known as “Scotty” for his heavy Scottish accent. Hughes worked for MPC, a company that made special, encrypted phones. MPC marketed these devices to the privacy-conscious, even using black and white portraits of Edward Snowden in advertisements. MPC was sponsoring Butterfly Crime, posting ads and flaunting MPC-branded hats and other memorabilia on the site and its social media. For Kok, it was easy money.

“MPC phone delivers multiple levels of encryption over a closed secure network,” one tweeted advert from the company reads.

Hughes and Kok spent the evening in Boccacio, a sex club on the outskirts of Amsterdam. After their session, and as the puffer-jacket wearing Kok stepped into a Volkswagen Polo, a hooded figure jumped from the dense shrubbery around the parking lot and fired into the Polo, killing Kok. Hughes walked away from the scene, according to CCTV footage previously published by the Dutch police.

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