The FBI and Australian Federal Police ran an encrypted chat platform and intercepted secret messages between criminal gang members …

The FBI and Australian Federal Police ran an encrypted chat platform and intercepted secret messages between criminal gang members from all over the world for more than three years.

Named Operation Ironside, on Monday, law enforcement agencies from Australia, Europe, and the US conducted house searches and arrested hundreds of suspects across a wide spectrum of criminal groups, from biker gangs in Australia to drug cartels across Asia and South America, and weapons and human traffickers in Europe.

In a press conference today, Australian police said the sting operation got underway in 2018 after the FBI successfully seized encrypted chat platform Phantom Secure.

Knowing that the criminal underworld would move to a new platform, US and Australian officials decided to create their own service, which they called Anøm (also stylized as AN0M).

Just like Phantom Secure, the new service consisted of secure smartphones that were configured to run only the An0m app and nothing else.

The app, advertised through word of mouth and via the anom.io website, allowed phone owners to send encrypted text and voice messages between devices and prevented them from installing any other apps.

No phone number was required to use the app, which relayed all its messages via An0m’s central platform.

But according to investigators, this app design allowed officials to intercept the messages and decrypt texts sent by gang members to each other, many of which included details of drug movements or murder plots.

According to Australian police officials, the FBI ran the platform while the AFP technical staff built a system to decrypt messages that passed through the platform in real-time.

Officials initially relied on undercover agents to promote the An0m devices, but as law enforcement agencies shut down competing platforms, such as EncroChat and Sky ECC, other gangs found refuge on the network, which eventually amassed more than 11,000 users.

Investigators described Operation Ironside as one of the largest sting operations in law enforcement history.

Investigators appear to have decided to shut down the sting operation after criminal groups started catching on that the An0m app was leaking their conversations.

Source: In a huge sting operation, FBI and Australian Federal Police ran an encrypted chat

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