Not just the sting of the century, Dozens of Law enforcement agencies around the globe pulled off “one of the most sophisticated” busts “in history.” Taking a page from the FBI’s “QAnon” playbook, U.S. federal officials passed out rigged cell phones marketed as “secure.” They handed them to known criminals with the warning only to tell other criminals where to get them. It worked like a dream.
FBI Trojan gear sting
The historic world-wide sting operation would never have made it off the ground without the help of the American FBI, who were carefully far away when all the arrests were made.
According to Reuters, the “operation by Australian and European police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation ensnared suspects in Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East involved in the global narcotics trade.” They snagged more than “800 suspected members of organized crime gangs” and seized “$148 million in cash” around the planet. “Tons of drugs were also seized.”
Somebody in Australian law enforcement was given the sting idea by the FBI in 2018. The Federal Bureau of Instigation came up with the brilliant idea to secretly distribute “encrypted phones, which had the app ANoM installed on them, to criminal organizations.”
Unbeknownst to the criminal customers, each allegedly “secure” phone had a hidden Trojan trap door that “allowed authorities to monitor all communications on the devices over a span of over a year and a half.” You can’t trust anyone these days.
The phones “had been stripped of the capability to make calls or send emails.” Then a program called “ANoM” was installed which allowed the phones to communicate, but only to other similarly equipped phones.
“The phones could only send messages to another device that had the app and criminals needed to know another criminal to get a device.” The sting worked beautifully. All they had to do was keep releasing bugged phones into the wild and let the criminals themselves do the rest.
The sneaky agents waited patiently and allowed their traps to collect evidence data for a full year-and-a-half. Then they moved in for the sting. “Over the last 18 months the FBI provided criminal organizations with over 300 encrypted devices in over 100 countries that allowed us to monitor their communications,” FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers gloats.
“Not only have we heard about the number of arrests and the number of seizures, but over 100 threats to life that were mitigated.”
While Europol patted themselves on the back for the sneaky sting, they admitted a fact which shows the FBI was fibbing about how extensive the project was. A lot more than 300 of the devices were out there. As reported by Europol, “police from a total of 16 countries launched raids on the basis of evidence from the phones, around 12,000 of which were distributed worldwide.”
Australian police said “the supposedly hardened encrypted devices were handed out to operatives within the mafia, Asian crime syndicates, drug cartels and outlaw motorcycle gangs as part of the elaborate FBI-led plot.” The bureau still refuses to admit they’re behind the Guy Fawkes mask calling themselves “Q” though.
The sting operation was a complete success from the perspective of the police. “This world-first operation will give the AFP, state and territory police years of intelligence and evidence. There is also the potential for a number of cold cases to be solved because of Operation Ironside.”
Now that everyone knows AN0M was compromised, criminals will switch to different equipment. “AN0M was an influential encrypted communications app but there are even bigger encrypted platforms that are being used by transnational and serious organized criminals.”