FBI nabbed more than 800 criminals after tricking them to use an encrypted messaging app. The agency worked in coordination with Australian and European law enforcement to set up app company AN0M. After getting suspected criminals to use it, they monitored their conversations before they swooped in.
The secret operation was named Trojan Shield in the United States and Europe, and Special Operation Ironside in Australia. The agencies managed to nab criminals from South American drug cartels, Asian Triad groups, and Middle Eastern and European criminal syndicates, earlier reported by the Washington Post.
According to Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw, it was a plan devised by the FBI and Australian police in 2018 over a couple of beers.
The police managed to install the AN0M app on phones stripped of other capabilities and distributed among alleged criminals. With the increase in the popularity of the app amongst these circles, more members joined as many vouched for its integrity and used it to discuss their activities.
After going through almost 27 million messages the law enforcement discovered details which contract for killings, photos of cocaine hidden in shipments of fruit, and robbery plots — over 18 months.
Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in a release said, “Encrypted criminal communications platforms have traditionally been a tool to evade law enforcement and facilitate transnational organized crime.”
He further added, “The FBI and our international partners continue to push the envelope and develop innovative ways to overcome these challenges and bring criminals to justice.”
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