ANOM: Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting

Alonzo Simpson
June 9, 2021

A map provided by the FBI in a federal affidavit shows the reach of Anom - an encrypted phone platform the agency took control of.

Hundreds of organized crime suspects were arrested in 18 countries after USA and Australian agencies hacked into apps used by criminals and read millions of encrypted messages, according to Australian officials. Was.

Officers were able to read the messages of global underworld figures in around 100 countries as they plotted drug deals, arms transfers and gangland hits on the compromised ANOM devices. [They] could only send messages to another device that had the organised crime app. In fact, the agency had sent the Anom devices into the black market in the first place.

In Australia, police said they arrested 224 people and seized more than 4000 kilograms of drugs and $35 million.

Since June 7, 2021, more than 4,000 members of AFP and state and local police have been involved in the enforcement of hundreds of warrants under Operation Ironside, which began secretly three years ago.

"The devices organically circulated and grew in popularity among criminals, who were confident of the legitimacy of the app because high-profile organised crime figures vouched for its integrity".

The document includes transcripts of smugglers' conversations, in which they name their prices and handling fees and describe their methods.

The AFP seized 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons and nearly $45million in cash as part of the AN0M operation.

They will appear in court today on charges of drug dealing, money laundering and other conspiracy charges.

The seeds of the operations were sown when law enforcement agencies earlier took down two other encrypted platforms, EncroChat and SkyECC.

The FBI gained access to the AN0M app in 2018, and started running it clandestinely, installed on Google Android devices that criminals sold to each other.

The FBI gained a real-time window into the lucrative world of global organized crime in 2018, after its San Diego office busted Phantom Secure, a company that provided hardened encrypted devices to criminal organizations.

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Drugs, weapons and cash have also been seized.

The operation also revealed that the gang had leaked information about police actions, according to an affidavit of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

The FBI had just what they needed. Technically speaking, each message is effectively BCC'd to a so-called iBot server located outside the United States that strips away the AN0M-level encryption, and re-encrypts the text for law enforcement.

Anom also had a built-in advantage: Those running it were able to listen - directly - to the target audience and give users what they wanted.

As the AFP monitored the messages and photos shared on the devices, "100 per cent of ANOM users in the test phase used ANOM to engage in criminal activity", the affidavit said. Unlike typical cell phones, the devices don't make phone calls or browse the internet - but allow for secure messaging.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the operation had been carefully planned with global law enforcement bodies.

"There was a void that was created by a lack of these encrypted platforms", Shivers said. "But nothing was further from the truth". That company, officials said, supplied encrypted cellphones to drug gangs, like Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, and other criminal groups.

"It was there to be seen, including "we'll have a speedboat meet you at this point", "this is who will do this" and so on", Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.

So those included drug smuggling, money laundering and planned killings.

As part of the raids, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and South Australia Police officers searched properties across Adelaide yesterday and made several arrests.

Law enforcement agencies were in a unique position to help the new Anom device find its market.

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