The FBI had secretly launched an encrypted messaging system named Anom back in 2018. Anom had been very helpful in assisting in the yearlong sting operations. However, to date, everything about the secret messaging system had been under the veil. Lately, the law enforcement agencies across the U.S., Europe and Oceania had revealed the origins of Anom. They said that they had been able to arrest 800 criminal suspects focusing on the intercepted communications.
As per the public statements, various other agencies, including the FBI, had seeded the secure Anom phones with the suspected crime syndicates. Gradually, they could build a network of around 12,000 in total devices, of which 9,000 were active.
The encrypted messaging system had secretly siphoned 27 million messages. This resulted in Trojan Shield / Operation Greenlight. It is a large scale bust that consisted of seizing cocaine of around 8 tons. Additionally, they could recover 22 tons of cannabis resin and cannabis, $48 million in cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies. Two hundred fifty firearms were also discovered.
The Anom encrypted messaging system had filled up the gap that was left behind by the other similar encrypted service takedowns. A George Washington University researcher named Seamus Hughes had offered in-depth details from the court records. Based on Hughes’ work, a reputed website had reported that Anom had begun its work in 2018 following the shut down of Phantom Secure. The latter was an encrypted system that the FBI alleges to be used rigorously by the drug traffickers and several other organized criminals.
An anonymous informant who had earlier sold the Phantom Secure phones informed the FBI that they were creating a “next generation” encrypted device named Anom. The informant had offered the system to the FBI and the Australian Federal Police in exchange for a reduction in the sentence on the criminal charges. He had also agreed to sell the Anom phones to its existing distribution network that had catered to organized crime offering new system credibility.
The encrypted messaging system buyers were unaware that each of the Anom phones they bought contained a “master key”. This key permits law enforcement agencies to decrypt the messages and contents. Each of the devices ties a fixed ID number to any of the usernames the owner chose.
The messages then were covertly routed to the servers of the police agencies such as the FBI, AFP and other agencies or that these agencies could retrieve from the servers. A court filing has cited some of the examples of these messages that even included images of cocaine packages. There were also discussions on how to smuggle the drug shipments.
The majority of the early Anom users had been located in Australia. Ultimately, the network covered a total of 90 countries. Most of the users were from the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Spain and Serbia. In early 2021, the growth had surged when law enforcement had taken down another encrypted messaging system, Sky Global.
A press release from Europol says, “300 criminal syndicates used Anom devices, including Italian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and international drug trafficking organizations.”
Beyond the direct Anom data made busts, the FBI described Anom as a move to “shake the confidence in the complete industry” of the encrypted device services. The cops had even tried to plant backdoors in the specifically crime-focused messaging services and the general-purpose. They have also hijacked various websites on the dark web, especially the dark web markets, to catch the criminals involved in illegal activities. However, it is pretty rare to see any law enforcement agencies launching brand new phones or networks for this purpose.
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