The device was Pixel smartphones, lacking the Pixel UI, and instead installed a custom Android add-on called Arcane OS. TO
Headlines last month were full of reports of an FBI operation in which the bureau secretly set up an entire company selling ultra-rugged Android smartphones. The purpose of the operation was to spy on the criminals who bought these smartphones.
A single messaging app, Anom, was installed on the devices. The messenger was positioned as absolutely secure, but it provided an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to intercept messages in which criminals often discussed methods of drug delivery and planned murders. Thanks to Anom, law enforcement officers have received first-hand information about crimes for several years. The operation, called Operation Ironside, culminated in hundreds of arrests and is considered one of the most successful in recent years.
The question arises: what happened to all these smartphones (mostly Pixel 4a and Pixel 3a)? Of course, not everyone who bought devices from an FBI-established company is criminals. According to Motherboard, some smartphones ended up in the secondary market and were put up for sale on classified sites. Buyers thought they were regular Android smartphones at a bargain price and had no idea that they were hacked by the FBI.
Motherboard employees contacted one of the buyers and asked him for a smartphone to research. Although the device was a Pixel smartphone, it lacked the Pixel UI and instead installed a custom Android add-on called Arcane OS. It is unknown who developed it, but it renders most of the functions of a mobile device useless.
None of the pre-installed apps on devices (Tinder, Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, and even Candy Crush) worked. For example, when I tried to open Instagram, nothing happened. The entire operating system looked like its main purpose was to create the appearance of a regular smartphone. After restarting the device and entering a different PIN-code, a different, but still not suspicious, home screen opened. Clicking on the calculator icon on it opened the Anom application.
In the “Quick settings” there was a button for emergency deletion of data from the device (the button is shown in the form of a paper shredder).