December 8, 2023

The US FBI, the Dutch National Police (Politie), and the Swedish Police Authority (Polisen), along with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and police from 16 other countries have carried out with the support of Europol a joint operation against criminal activities worldwide.

The FBI and Australian Federal Police (AFP) ran an encrypted chat platform that was used by crime gangs and intercepted their communications. Authorities gained access to 27 million messages exchanged via ANOM by criminals that were discussing about their illegal activities using 12000 encrypted devices over 300 criminal syndicates in more than 100 countries

Trojan Shield

The goal of the new platform was to target global organised crime, drug trafficking, and money laundering organisations, regardless of where they operated, and offer an encrypted device with features sought by the organised crime networks, such as remote wipe and duress passwords, to persuade criminal networks to pivot to the device.

As part of the operation code-named Operation Ironside (AFP) / Trojan Shield (FBI, Interpol), the law enforcement agencies conducted house searches and arrested thousands of people members of biker gangs in Australia, drug trafficking organizations across Asia and South America, money laundering organisations, and some of them took part in human trafficking and the sale of weapons.

Trojan Shield began in 2018 after the FBI seized the encrypted chat platform Phantom Secure, an event that shook the crime ecosystem and forced many gangs to move to another encrypted communication system.

US and Australian authorities joint the efforts and launched their own encrypted communication service based on Anøm, which is an encrypted chat platform secretly compromised by agents under cover from the FBI. The secure devices don’t use phone number to communicate because the encrypted traffic it relayed via An0m’s central platform. This is being used by criminals to communicate with peers underground

Most of the messages collected as part of the Trojan Shield operation were analyzed by the Australian police and the gathered intelligence was shared between law enforcement agencies worldwide to take coordinate the operations.

Encrypted criminal communications platforms have traditionally been a tool to evade law enforcement and facilitate transnational organized crime. This has to be extended to monitor criminal gangs engaging in security breach activities.

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