The WhatsApp account of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was accessed last Sunday, in all likelihood by the police conducting the investigation into her assassination.
Caruana Galizia’s WhatsApp account was last accessed on Sunday evening at 6:54pm, the same time as protestors had gathered outside the police headquarters to demand the resignation of police commissioner Laurence Cutajar.
According to a report in the Malta Independent today, a team of Maltese and Dutch forensic experts had elevated parts of Caruana Galizia’s broken smart phone from the scene of the crime in Bidnija. Quoting sources, the paper said investigators have managed to clone Caruana Galizia’s SIM card with the help of mobile service providers. However, as WhatsApp messages have end-to-end encryption, investigators have not been able to access the messages the journalist had sent and received.
Lovin Malta last week asked the police whether they have managed to retrieve Caruana Galizia’s phone, but we have not yet received a response.
Forensic experts combing the scene of the crime. Photo: TVM
Europol director Rob Wainwright and the UK’s home affairs minister Amber Rudd last March urged WhatsApp to loosen its end-to-end encryption regulations so as to allow police to intercept terrorists’ communication lines.
This was after it was revealed that a man who had carried out a deadly terrorist attack in Westminster had accessed the popular messaging app a few minutes before carrying out his attack. However, WhatsApp’s privacy settings meant intelligence agencies were unable to find out if the killer had spoken to anyone right before carrying out the attack.
Yet these privacy settings were precisely why Caruana Galizia had chosen WhatsApp as her preferred means of communication. In a blogpost last April, she urged everyone with information on the Egrant scandal to message her on WhatsApp – reassuring them the app’ settings means their messages cannot be intercepted by anyone. Moreover, she said she deletes all her written WhatsApp messages immediately after reading them, leaving no data stored on her phone.
The Malta Independent today also reported police did not find Caruana Galizia’s damaged laptop near the wreckage of her car in Bidnija, contradicting an earlier report by MaltaToday.
All of Malta’s media houses last week filed a court application to ensure the police protect Caruana Galizia’s sources if they encounter their details while investigating the journalist’s murder.