FBI and police ran a secure chat platform to spy on criminals

FBI and police ran a secure chat platform to spy on criminals

After the closure of the Phantom Secure chat platform in 2018, law enforcement officers developed their own alternative, Anøm.  

For more than three years, the US FBI and the Australian Federal Police have operated an encrypted messaging platform to intercept the correspondence of gang members around the world.

On Monday 7 June, Operation Ironside, law enforcement officials in Australia, Europe and the United States conducted a series of searches and arrested hundreds of alleged members of various criminal organizations, ranging from Australian biker gangs to drug cartels in Asia and South America, as well as arms dealers and people in Europe.

The operation began in 2018 when the FBI succeeded in blocking Phantom Secure, a secure chat platform used by criminals, the Australian Federal Police said . Assuming that the bandits who lost a safe means of communication would look for a replacement for him, law enforcement officers launched their own decoy service Anøm (AN0M).

Like Phantom Secure, the solution was a smartphone configured to run only one Anøm application for sending encrypted and voice messages (it was impossible to install any other applications on the device). The application provided an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to intercept messages in which criminals often discussed methods of drug delivery and planned murders.

The platform was managed by the FBI, while Australian Federal Police technicians developed a system for decrypting messages directly in the process of their transmission.

The Anøm platform has been advertised on anom.io as well as undercover agents posing as black market criminals. As a result, the number of platform users reached 11 thousand. Law enforcement officials called Operation Ironside one of the largest operational experiments in the history of law enforcement agencies.

The decision to terminate the operation was made after the criminals began to notice that their correspondence was leaking. Currently, arrests are known in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden.

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