Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting using messaging app

Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting using messaging app
Items seized in the sting included motorbikes and money. Source: AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE
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Daily US Times: Officials say more than 800 suspected criminals have been arrested worldwide after being tricked into using an FBI-run encrypted messaging app.

The operation, jointly conceived by the FBI and Australia, saw devices with the ANOM app secretly distributed among criminals, allowing police to monitor their chats about money laundering, drug smuggling and even murder plots.

Security officials and detectives called it a watershed moment.

Targets included people with links to the mafia and drug gangs.

Drugs, luxury vehicles, weapons and cash were also seized in the operation, which was conducted across more than a dozen of countries. This included 250 guns, eight tons of cocaine and more than $48m in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies.

Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister, said the operation had “struck a heavy blow against organised crime” across the world.

Europol, European Union police agency, described Operation Trojan Shield/Greenlight as the “biggest ever law enforcement operation against encrypted communication”.

The FBI began operating ANOM, an encrypted device network, and covertly distributed devices with the chat app among the criminal underworld via informants.

The idea for the operation came after two other encrypted platforms were taken down by law enforcement agencies, leaving criminal gangs in the market for new secure phones.

Alleged senior crime figures initially used the devices, giving other criminals the confidence to use the messaging app.

Australian police explained: You had to know a criminal to get hold of one of these customised phones. The phones couldn’t ring or email. You could only communicate with someone on the same platform.

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