'An0m' Encrypted-Chat Sting Leads to Arrest of 800

threatpost.com
6 min read
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The FBI and Australian law enforcement set up the encrypted chat service and ran it for nearly 3 years, seizing weapons, drugs and over $48m in cash.
The FBI and Australian law enforcement set up the encrypted chat service and ran it for over 3 years, seizing weapons, drugs and over $48m in cash.

Law enforcement agencies have been selling encrypted phones to organized crime gangs for years, monitoring their conversations in what's being called the biggest law enforcement sting ever.

Since 2018, agencies have been overseeing the distribution of hardened, encrypted devices that have enabled them to eavesdrop on crooks. The monitoring of the devices, which are called Anøm, Anom or An0m, has led to a dizzying array of actions.

On Monday, law enforcement agencies from the U.S., Australia and Europe announced that the massive global operation – called Operation Ironside by Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Trojan Shield by the FBI and Europol – resulted in these moves, carried out in 16 countries over the preceding few days:

700+ house searches

800+ arrests

Seizure of 8+ tons of cocaine, 22 tons of cannabis & cannabis resin

Seizure of 2 tons of amphetamine & methamphetamine, 6 tons of synthetic drugs precursors

Seizure of 250 firearms, 55 luxury vehicles & over $48 million in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies

Shedding Light on the Criminal Underground

As the AFP outlined in the video below, for more than a decade, many organized crime syndicates have been dark. They've been using end-to-end encryption platforms enabled by customized phones that scramble sent messages which are then unscrambled when a recipient opens them.

But in 2018, the FBI seized Phantom Secure: A chat service that sold encrypted phones to drug traffickers, murderers-for-hire and other organized crime leaders. The Canada-based enterprise purchased smartphones and stripped the devices' GPS, calling, texting and internet access. Then, Phantom Secure installed an encrypted email system, thereby placing the phones in closed-loop communication where they could only talk with each other. You couldn't even begin a…
Lisa Vaas
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