The days of The wireAvon Barksdale and his crew, handing out paper notes on drug deals, have long since disappeared, as nowadays apparently even criminal organizations can’t help but send text messages and share photos. And that, as you might expect, leads to their downfall. This lesson in criminals should never write comes from the Justice Department, which printed court documents on Monday, describing an extensive three-year operation known as the Trojan Shield, in which the FBI managed to set up a network of encrypted messages and offer it to criminal unions as a means of free communication outside law enforcement. The attractiveness of the expensive private communications system was too good to miss and proved too good to be true for drug dealers, arms runners, assailants and hundreds of other crime users who were horrified by the international coalition of law enforcement .
Operation Trojan Shield allowed law enforcement to intercept more than 20 million messages from the network’s criminal organizations, which they trusted so much that they often communicated openly without using coded language and sent photos of their exploits. Access to the messages eventually led to the arrest of at least 800 suspects in more than a dozen countries, a scheme that the European police agency Europol described as “one of the largest and most complex law enforcement operations to date in the fight against encrypted crime.” “
The operation came after the FBI removed a Canadian-based encryption service called Phantom Secure. Phantom Secure offered its criminal elements services on the market, offering secure communication via encrypted mobile phones that the company provided to unions. When the company was dismantled in 2018, the FBI tried to fill the black market gap for secure criminal communications. To make this happen, the agency hired a former Phantom Secure distributor as an informant who, in return for the reduced time in prison, not only helped develop an encrypted communications system called ANOM, but helped her launch it on island criminal networks. buyers.
The application went live in October 2018, when the informant offered encrypted phones to three distributors in Australia. “The Anom devices were mobile phones that had all their normal functions taken away,” the New York Times notes. “Their only working application was disguised as a function of the calculator: After entering the code, users can send messages and photos with end-to-end encryption.” The operation grew rapidly and, according to Europol, ANOM devices were sold to more than 300 criminal organizations. over 100 countries. The operation, involving Australian and European law enforcement agencies, was announced this week, Australian officials said, due to legal restrictions on the timing of the wiretapping operation and the need to crack down on high-profile criminal conspiracies at the moment.