FBI, International Authorities Arrest Hundreds In Encrypted Messaging App Sting
or almost three years, criminals used an encrypted network that the FBI had access to
JUNE 8, 2021
For almost three years, criminals used a network of encrypted devices to share the dirty details of their smuggling and money laundering operations. If their messages about stuffing cocaine into pineapples and cans of tuna ever fell into authorities’ hands, they believed, the incriminating information could be wiped from the encrypted devices they were using.
Well, they were duped.
The FBI was in cahoots with the developer of the device, called “Anom,” the whole time, and yesterday announced a series of successful busts and 800+ arrests under the code name Operation Trojan Shield. They also seized…
- Eight tons of cocaine and 22 tons of cannabis
- 55 luxury vehicles
- 250 firearms
- $48+ million worth of various currencies and cryptocurrencies
How it happened
In 2018, the FBI recruited a former distributor of a different encrypted network that had just gotten busted. The engineer was working on a new service, Anom, that stripped mobile phones of their normal functions and disguised a secure messaging app to look like a calculator.
- In exchange for a reduced sentence and $120k, the engineer gave the FBI a master key to access and save Anom messages.
As the FBI took down other encrypted communication services, more criminals started to DM using Anom’s platform. The FBI also helped spread Anom by distributing devices to 300+ gangs across 100 countries through middlemen. One Australian fugitive, Hakan Ayik, aka the “Facebook gangster,” was given an Anom device by undercover agents and, after recommending it to many associates, unwittingly became the FBI’s top influencer.
Big picture: Europol officials called it “one of the largest and most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date in the fight against encrypted criminal activities.” Still, Anom represented just a fraction of criminal communications.