Saturday, 19 June, 2021


How the Federal Bureau of Investigation got criminals into using monitored app

Multiple arrests were made in a police operation across Adelaide Multiple arrests were made in a police operation across Adelaide
Melba Vasquez | 09 June, 2021, 04:24

"Encrypted criminal communications platforms have traditionally been a tool to evade law enforcement and facilitate transnational organized crime". The site was taken offline Monday afternoon as word of the arrests began to spread.

In this beta test, 50 handsets were passed out Down Under, and this phase of the operation was successful; two of the country's biggest criminal gangs were successfully penetrated and the message copying system worked perfectly.

"The success of Operation Trojan Shield is a result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented worldwide collaboration", Shivers said. Aussie police reviewing the texts said they found 100 per cent were related to crime.

Through the encrypted cellphones, criminals organized the shipment of cocaine from Ecuador to Belgium in a container concealed within cans of tuna, according to US court documents.

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation Europol and 16 other countries, including Finland, also participated.

More than 800 people have been arrested in Europe, North America and Australia as part of a massive law enforcement operation targeting gangsters who communicated using the AN0M device.

And so, in October 2018, the three-year sting operation began.

Unlike typical cellphones, the devices do not make phone calls or browse the internet - but allow for secure messaging.

The suspects are accused of using prepaid phones containing an encrypted messaging app to deal in weapons and drugs, prosecutors said. Intelligence agencies referred to the state police agency that took immediate action.

Whether it was coordinating drug trafficking, money laundering or murders, every message tapped out on the phones was sent not only to the intended criminal underworld recipients, but delivered right into the hands of investigators.

For over three years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and AFP carefully strategized a power move to arrest over 200 criminals.

In the Netherlands itself, the investigation led Dutch police to identify 25 drugs labs and storage places.

"The results are staggering", FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers told reporters at Europol's headquarters in The Netherlands.

Australian Federal Police Commander Jennifer Hearst called it "a watershed moment in global law enforcement history".

The ANOM app became popular in criminal circles as users told one another it was a safe platform. However, police were secretly watching and listening as criminals discussed murders, drug shipments and other crimes.

They say the number of active ANOM users was only 3,000 until Sky, one of the platforms previously used by criminal gangs, was dismantled in March. Further charges are also likely, including public corruption - a result, in some cases, of the messages' details about officials who were willing to aid smugglers.

Because law enforcement agencies designed the app, they could intercept messages and decrypt each text.

This meant that 100 threats to life were mitigated, he said.

Authorities seized hundreds of kilogramsme of drugs, more than 20 weapons, over 30 luxury cars, and cash worth 250,000 euros, as well as IT equipment.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said multiple criminal plots were also foiled thanks to law enforcement access to the app, including a planned mass shooting at an Australian suburban cafe and the assassination of a family of five.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the operation had "struck a heavy blow against organised crime - not just in this country, but. around the world".

Although the authorities have cracked or shut down encrypted platforms in the past - such as one called EncroChat that the police in Europe successfully hacked - this is the first known instance in which officials have controlled an entire encrypted network from its inception. The 33-year-old was charged last week following a raid at a Kangaroo Point home, where police allegedly seized 154g of meth.

The latest effort went even further before authorities made a decision to take down the service.

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