Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
App encrypted by FBI helps bust crime networks
A global sting involving an encrypted communications platform developed by the Us-based Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has sparked raids and arrests around the world, delivering “an unprecedented blow” to crime gangs, law enforcement authorities said on Tuesday.
Operation Trojan Shield involved police swoops in 16 nations. More than 800 suspects were arrested and more than 32 tons of drugs - cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and methamphetamines were seized along with 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.
“The operation is a shining example of what can be accomplished when international law enforcement partners from around the world work together and develop state-of-the-art investigative tools to dismantle transnational criminal organisations,” Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’S criminal investigative division, said.
It was, said Australia’s federal police commander Jennifer Hearst, “a watershed moment in global law enforcement history”.
Dutch national police chief constable Jannine van den Berg said the operation dealt “an unprecedented blow to criminal networks”.
The seeds of the operations were sown when law enforcement agencies earlier took down two other encrypted platforms, Encrochat and Sky ECC. That meant crime gangs that traffic drugs and organise underworld hits around the world were in the market for new secure phones.
The FBI had just what they needed. An app called ANOM that was installed on modified mobile phones.
“There was a void that was created by a lack of these encrypted platforms,” said Shivers. “So that created an opportunity for collaboration with our international partners, to not only develop the specific tool, but also to develop the process of gathering the intelligence and disseminating the intelligence.”
The app formed the backbone of Trojan Shield, an operation led by the FBI that involved the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the EU police agency Europol and law enforcement agencies in a dozen countries.
The ANOM app was popular and got more popular as criminals told one another it was a safe platform. Over the past 18 months, the FBI provided encrypted devices to more than 300 crime gangs operating in more than 100 countries. That allowed police to look over the shoulders of criminals as they discussed hits, drug shipments and other crimes.