Thousands of mobsters around the world use encrypted cell phones to arrange drug deals, arms deals and gang assassinations without realizing that law enforcement agencies have tampered with their phones.
Australian police say that Operation Trojan Shield delivered thousands of what were thought to be secure “enhanced encryption devices” to mafia, Asian crime syndicates, drug cartels and outlaw motorcycle gangs over a three-year period. This global cooperative undercover operation was led by the FBI.
The tampered with AN0M devices were sent to suspects in 90 countries, who unknowingly transmitted coded copies of messages to police, amounting to approximately 20 million messages.
According to officials in multiple countries and unsealed U.S. court documents, this evidence led to hundreds of arrests and the uncovering of several large drug trafficking operations.
The operation began when the FBI infiltrated a similar encryption system called Phantom Secure and deconstructed another called Sky Global.
New Zealand police said, “The closure of both encrypted communications platforms resulted in a significant window of opportunity in the encrypted communications market.”
The New Zealand police also said that in order to fill this empty window, the FBI set up its own encryption device company, called AN0M.
According to unsealed U.S. court documents cited by U.S. media outlet Vice, the FBI and informants worked together to use the Phantom Secure network of existing criminal customers to launch 50 test units first, mostly in Australia.
The encrypted device allegedly has no email capabilities, no phone calls, and no global positioning service (GPS), and can only transmit messages with other AN0M phones.
AN0M phones can only be bought on the black market, one about $ 2,000, and must be from the hands of existing AN0M customers to get the password to enter.
Australian police said in a statement, “Criminals must know another criminal in order to obtain this device.”
Finally there are 11,800 AN0M cell phones circulating in all continents of the world, only Antarctica is not, becoming the most common device used by the underworld in Australia, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
This undercover operation appears to have been discovered in March 2021, when a blogger posted a post detailing AN0M’s security vulnerabilities and claiming that the device was linked to a scam in Australia, the United States, and other members of the Five Eyes coalition (Five Eyes). That posting was later deleted.