Hundreds arrested globally after joint US-Australian organised crime sting

Elias Hubbard
June 8, 2021

The ANOM app was popular and got more popular as criminals told one another it was a safe platform.

To fill the void, "the Federal Bureau of Investigation operated its own encrypted device company, called "AN0M", the New Zealand police added. Raids were ongoing into the night, and it was unclear if there were any arrests or charges in the United States.

A copy of a website sighted by iTNews dated March 21 this year criticised the operational security of AN0M, and said it used Google and Amazon Web Services features hosted in the U.S. that made it easy to track users. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to provide additional details until then.

"The FBI had the lead on this".

" has struck a heavy blow against organised crime - not just in this country, but one that will echo around organised crime around the world".

USA and Australian authorities hacked into an app used by criminals to read millions of encrypted messages, leading to hundreds of arrests of suspected organised crime figures in 18 countries, Australian officials said on Tuesday.

Over three years, "Operation Trojan Shield" helped distribute thousands of supposedly secure "hardened encrypted devices" to operatives within the mafia, Asian crime syndicates, drug cartels and outlaw motorcycle gangs as part of an elaborate FBI-led plot, according to Australian police.

According to the AFP, intelligence gathered from the decrypted messages led to the arrest of 224 suspects on more than 500 charges and the seizure of 3.7 metric tons of drugs and almost $35 million in cash over the past three years in Australia.

"All they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered, a whole range of things", said Australian Federal Police commissioner Reece Kershaw in a press conference.

But not just anyone could become a customer.

The ploy matched tactics used by other end-to-end encryption communications businesses that had catered to criminal organizations, adding to the air of exclusivity and security. "We will ensure we have the technology to disrupt criminals".

There were about 9,000 users of ANĂ˜N, including about 1,600 in Australia, said Kershaw.

"The success of Operation Trojan Shield is a result of tremendous innovation, dedication and unprecedented worldwide collaboration", Shivers said.

Hanson was a one-time walk-on to the University of Southern California football team who had quietly parlayed high-profile relationships, charisma and business savvy into an global sports betting and drug-trafficking organization. The idea built on previous such efforts, such as the Phantom Secure platform.

When Ramos declined an offer to cooperate with investigators by building a back door into his devices for law enforcement access in 2018, the genesis of building an undercover network from scratch began to emerge.

"All of us have a responsibility in our own relationships and our own families, in our own communities, to be doing what we can to encourage positive behaviours that don't indulge illicit drug use". Law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions also had legal cover for their use of the software.

In March, Europe's law enforcement agency Europol announced that authorities in Belgium, the Netherlands and France had been secretly collecting messages on some 70,000 Sky Global phones for about a month.

He said in Australia police had been able to frustrate drug operations and prevent incidents such as mass shootings in suburbs. "We provided the technical capability to decrypt those messages", he said.

With some 11,000 users worldwide, and 1650 people in Australia said to have used the devices running An0m on them, criminals "handcuffed each other".

The messages were brazen and there was no attempt to hide behind any kind of code, he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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