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posted by janrinok on Tuesday June 08, @10:17PM   Printer-friendly

FBI-controlled AN0M app ensnares scores of alleged criminals in global police sting:

On Tuesday, Australian police said they had carried out hundreds of search warrants in the past 24 hours and arrested 224 people, with simultaneous stings taking place in Europe and the United States. New Zealand police said they detained 35 people, including top members of criminal gangs.

For nearly three years, law enforcement officials have been sitting in the back pocket of some of the world's top alleged crime figures. Custom cellphones, bought on the black market and installed with the FBI-controlled platform, called AN0M, circulated and grew in popularity among criminals as high-profile crime identities vouched for its integrity.

The FBI in the past has dismantled encrypted platforms used by criminals to communicate, and infiltrated others. This operation saw the FBI create a closed encrypted app, AN0M, to fill the void and to target organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering activities across the globe by monitoring people's communications about their criminal offending.

(...) The users believed their AN0M devices were secured by encryption. Rather, they were feeding criminal intelligence directly to law enforcement agents.

"Essentially, they have handcuffed each other by endorsing and trusting AN0M and openly communicating on it — not knowing we were watching the entire time," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.

The global operation, known as Special Operation Ironside in Australia and Trojan Shield in the United States, has allegedly exposed criminals linked to South American drug cartels, Triad groups in Asia, and criminal syndicates based in the Middle East and Europe.

ANOM: Hundreds arrested in massive global crime sting using messaging app

More than 800 suspected criminals have been arrested worldwide after being tricked into using an FBI-run encrypted messaging app, officials say. The operation, jointly conceived by Australia and the FBI, saw devices with the ANOM app secretly distributed among criminals, allowing police to monitor their chats about drug smuggling, money laundering and even murder plots. Officials called it a watershed moment.

Targets included drug gangs and people with links to the mafia. Drugs, weapons, luxury vehicles and cash were also seized in the operation, which was conducted across more than a dozen countries. This included eight tons of cocaine, 250 guns and more than $48m (£34m) in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies.

[...] The FBI began operating an encrypted device network called ANOM, and covertly distributed devices with the chat app among the criminal underworld via informants. The idea for the operation came after two other encrypted platforms were taken down by law enforcement agencies, leaving criminal gangs in the market for new secure phones. The devices were initially used by alleged senior crime figures, giving other criminals the confidence to use the platform.

Also at the Associated Press and The Guardian.

See also: Hakan Ayik: The man who accidentally helped FBI get in criminals' pockets

Australian police have told local media that the man who unwittingly helped to distribute the FBI-run encrypted messaging app was a fugitive named Hakan Ayik. Alleged to be a drugs kingpin himself, officials say Mr Ayik was identified as a key influencer and given access by undercover agents to a handset which he then recommended to other criminal associates. "He was identified because of his standing within the underworld," a senior investigator quoted by the Australian Telegraph said. "He was a primary target as someone who was trusted and was going to be able to successfully distribute this platform."

It is reported that he has been living abroad in Turkey for years and police have urged him to come forward for his own safety. "Given the threat he faces, he's best off handing himself into us as soon as he can," Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by looorg on Wednesday June 09, @01:20AM (5 children)

    by looorg (578) on Wednesday June 09, @01:20AM (#1143369)

    Officers were able to read millions of messages in "real time" describing murder plots, mass drug import plans and other schemes.
    "All they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered, a whole range of things," said Australian Federal Police commissioner Reece Kershaw.

    From the BBC link, my bold highlight. The victimless murder plots. If this had just been about shipping large quantities of drugs they would probably just have left this running more or less indefinitely and siphoned of info for busts. But when they start planning and ordering murders of innocent people they can't really just sit back and watch any more. They might be able to sort of see it as "victimless", or a part of their criminal life and business, if it's just gangster doing other gangsters but when it goes beyond they have to intervene.

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  • (Score: 2) by bradley13 on Wednesday June 09, @04:52AM (1 child)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 09, @04:52AM (#1143434) Homepage Journal

    The victimless murder plots. If this had just been about shipping large quantities of drugs they would probably just have left this running more or less indefinitely and siphoned of info for busts.

    I'm a lot more cynical. Have you ever listened to lowlife idiots talking? They're always gonna kill somebody, gonne get dat bitch, gonna... Talk is cheap.

    More likely, they had been running this scan for enough years, costing enough money, that they had to have something to show for it. So they impounded lots of property, much of which was certainly legal to possess (vehicles, probably the firearms, arguably all of the marijuana), busted a lot of people, and now they're going to pile on the charges until they take a plea deal. Oh, I'm sure they also blocked or emptied all the bank accounts they could identify, so the people can't afford to pay lawyers.

    Color me unimpressed...

    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 2) by looorg on Wednesday June 09, @11:31AM

      by looorg (578) on Wednesday June 09, @11:31AM (#1143486)

      I'm fairly cynical to but when it comes to this I'm slightly more realistic. Yes I have listened to, and read the transcripts of when, these type of people talk. Just like a lot of normal people they do talk about doing a lot of stupid things -- including killing other people. But when normal people do it you can sort of dismiss it in a lot of cases cause it's just talk. But when these people actually plan and put up resources to get it done, being people that one can assume have done these things before or just operating in a world where violence and death is a more normal thing, or seen as an actual form of problem resolution, you can't really assume they are just smack talking each other.

      In this case they more or less already stated that they sort of started as high up, and as high value, as they could and are now working their way down the ladder. I'm sure that eventually, or fairly soon, they'll make their way to the people that they want to or that will be willing to talk and make deals. Many of the objects seized might be legal to possess under normal circumstances but if they are bought with illegal money they are not. Seizing the goods is also a blow to their lifestyle and ego, a lot of them want to live (or at least present the illusion of living) a luxury lifestyle, so taking away things from them is in that regard proper.

      In some regard the police are now just mindfucking the lot of them. After all would you trust any device at this point for your communication? They didn't trust each other before, now even less so and as a bonus now they are going to start to blame each other if you are the one that got them on one of these devices and networks. If you used one of them and the police have yet to kick down your door it probably tells you how far down the criminal totem-pole you are, but you shouldn't worry they'll come for you/them eventually. Then it's snitch-o-clock for sure. Cause all those ideas of brotherhood just goes out the window when you are alone in the interrogation room, then it's everyone going under the bus to save yourself. Some of them just can't stop talking fast enough.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @12:35PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @12:35PM (#1143497)

    It's only after we've read the messages that we can condemn these people for conspiracy. It's absolutely probable that they were just talking shit, but removing it from context and making exuberant accusations is a perfectly sound strategy to justify this. And as I said before, theae people operate outside the boundaries of the law, they are their own police force because they're disallowed the coersive power of the state - not because they're predisposed to reckless violence. How often do you see pharmacies or liquor stores warring?

    • (Score: 2) by looorg on Wednesday June 09, @02:24PM (1 child)

      by looorg (578) on Wednesday June 09, @02:24PM (#1143522)

      Not really. If they have or had one of these devices they are known members of criminal organizations and/or enterprises. Entities which only exists to further and be involved in criminal activities. While they might have normal everyday conversations like the rest of us these devices are not for those conversations. So no they are not innocent or victims of some kind of conspiracy. They are criminals doing criminal things and this is or was a device that only existed to further that goal as far as they were concerned, since they didn't know it was just a gigantic honeytrap but non of them were coerced or entrapped in any way by LEO. Clearly tricked but nothing more.

      That criminal organizations have their own rules or laws etc doesn't matter. No government can tolerate alternative forms of authority and still claim dominion. The claim of or for a monopoly on violence and/or physical force is the basis of all forms of statecraft as we know it have been since more or less the civilization or urbanization of man. It might not be a very nice thing to think about but in the end everything is eventually backed up by the threat of force or violence. In which case you can not tolerate alternatives.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @12:38AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @12:38AM (#1143750)

        Firstly, in civilized nations one is dealt with by the rule of law and is innocent until proven guilty, which is to say they're due every reasonable doubt until evidence is submitted to crystallize the conviction. But this is getting circuitous. Most of these people are regular people who sell illicit substances as a means to an end, namely income garnered from such business - business which once again I will reiterate is victimless. It's by the artifice of the justice system that they're defined criminal, and not by any real crime defined such as the involuntary injury of a third party's person or property. The fact of the matter is that this is a PR piece and it should be read with every caution due to the motives of such a release.

        As to your short sighted retort regarding the functionary role of government, it is because of the institution of law that these enterprising young folks are driven to police their economy. It's by that virtue that any such crime is precipitate, and thus the legal system and the government itself is complicit in producing and facilitating criminal enterprise and any real crime generated in its function. These laws, again, are ineffective and stand to do little more that perpetuate more ineffective policies. One might call it a perverse positive feedback loop, which ultimately compromises the security and privacy of the law abiding for the sake of the remediation of an illusory boogeyman - who for all intents and purposes would, in a vacuum where government behaved itself, be as docile as your local pharmacist or liquor store owner.