Hundreds of criminals around the world have been arrested after getting duped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As part of Operation Trojan Shield, the FBI created an encrypted messaging app called AN0M, which was then used by members of criminal organizations who thought their messages were being kept private. American and Australian law enforcement officials came up with the idea in 2018 "over a couple of beers."
The app was preinstalled on phones that were given to high-ranking members of criminal gangs by undercover Australian intelligence agents. Those members would then recommend the app to others, giving the FBI unprecedented access to their conversations and plans.
While the phones could not make phone calls or send emails, they gave the FBI, and other intelligence agencies, the ability to see up to 25 million encrypted messages in real-time.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Reece Kershaw told reporters that Australian agents handed out hundreds of phones to alleged criminals over the course of the past three years. He said that officials in Australia and New Zealand made more than 250 arrests and seized over 100 illegal weapons and millions of dollars in cash, drugs, and other assets. He said that officials managed to prevent a mass shooting and 21 murder plots, including one that targeted an entire family.
"These criminal influencers put the AFP in the back pocket of hundreds of alleged offenders. Essentially, they have handcuffed each other by endorsing and trusting AN0M and openly communicating on it – not knowing we were watching the entire time," Kershaw said in a statement.
Operation Trojan Shield has resulted in over 800 arrests in 18 countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.
Photo: Getty Images