Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

App encrypted by FBI helps bust crime networks

- Associated Press

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.

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