REPORT: FBI-encrypted phone app leads to over 800 global arrests of criminals in 18 countries

The FBI set up its own encrypted platform used by hundreds of criminals around the world, in an “unprecedented” sting operation that led to in excess of 800 arrests in 18 countries, law enforcement officers have confirmed.

The operation by the FBI long with Australian and European police, ensnared suspects in Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East involved in the narcotics trade. More than 800 suspected members of organized crime gangs were arrested and $148m (£104m) in cash seized in raids along with 32 tons of drugs, 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars and more than 48 million U.S. dollars in cash and cryptocurrencies.

The FBI’s San Diego Field Office said in a statement that it was the hub for the more than 100 agents and analysts, and 80 linguists who were pooled together for the operation that began with the takedown of Phantom Secure, a company that provided hardened encrypted devices to criminal organizations, in 2018. The FBI’s San Diego branch then recruited a confidential source who worked on a next generation encrypted devices and had ties to Phantom Secure’s shadowy distribution network. These co-agents agreed to let the FBI take control of the new device, dubbed Anom, and help it spread.

The FBI said law enforcement agencies worked together to supply “more than 12,000 devices to hundreds of criminal organizations that operate around the globe.” These devices are typically purchased through word-of-mouth referral networks for between 1,200 U.S. dollars and 2,000 dollars each, and buyers were told that they were specially designed with robust data encryption tools and could be wiped clean remotely if they fall into the hands of law enforcement.

“Criminal groups using encrypted communications to thwart law enforcement should no longer feel safe in that space,” Arnold said. “We hope criminals worldwide will fear that the FBI or another law enforcement organization may, in fact, be running their platform.” Enditem


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