But for nearly three years, cryptographic apps used by criminals have been secretly investigated by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), leading to hundreds of arrests and tens of millions of dollars in assets seized. Officials said Tuesday.
According to AFP, intelligence gathered from decrypted messages has led to the arrests of 224 suspects on more than 500 counts and the seizure of 3.7 metric tons of drugs and nearly $35 million in cash over the past three years in Australia
A number of the accused were linked to the Italian Mafia in Australia. Outlaw motorcycle gangs organized crime in Asia and Albanian criminal groups
“Operation Ironside,”; after the investigation’s name. It began three years ago as a collaboration between several global law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, AFP, New Zealand Police and Europol.
ANoM can only be found on phones purchased through the black market. That has been stripped of its ability to make calls or send emails, according to AFP, the phone can only send messages to other devices that have the app. And criminals need to know another criminal to get the device.
“The device has spread naturally and has become increasingly popular among criminals. which ensures the legitimacy of the app Because high-profile criminals certify the integrity of the app,” the AFP statement said.
App users, unknown to the FBI, have access to apps and communications. which the organization uses to collect information about criminal operations.
Kershaw said criminals did not use codes or pseudonyms in ANoM, blatantly discuss crimes with the false assurance that their communications were safe.
“Basically We are in the back pockets of criminals and are taking criminal actions like we have never seen before,” Kershaw said.
“Using encrypted communication apps poses a significant challenge to law enforcement, and ANoM has given law enforcement agencies the opportunity to reach a level of crime we’ve never seen before.”
Hundreds of arrests and many more drugs were seized abroad as a result of the operations, AFP said. but did not specify where Police have also seized assets in Australia. Officials expect it to be worth millions of dollars when sold.
Over the past three years, more than 9,000 police officers in 18 countries have been involved in the operation.
AFP said more arrests were expected in Australia and abroad as a result of the operation.
Kershaw adds that there are other communication apps out there. with larger encryption which the police are working to access
Angus Watson and Sarah Faidell from CNN contributed to this article.