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FBI uses messenger app to trick criminals

Posted June. 10, 2021 07:24,   

Updated June. 10, 2021 07:24


An encrypted messenger app, which had been favored by international criminal organizations for several years to plot crimes turned out to be the “Trojan Horse” developed and operated by the FBI. Until recently, the FBI successfully prevented crimes and arrested over 800 criminals by monitoring the criminal plots of international organizations in over 100 countries.

According to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, the FBI, which was struggling with encrypted messengers used by criminal organizations, decided to address the issue in a new way in 2018. It decided to develop an app that can secretly steal messages and distribute it among criminals. It is dubbed “Operation Trojan Shield” from the Trojan Horse.

In early 2018, the FBI hired an expert to create a communications security equipment for criminal organizations and developed messenger app Anom. Users can only join the message encryption app with an invitation from an existing user. In addition, special mobile phones with Anom installed should be purchased in the black market to use the app. GPS is removed from the phones to avoid arrests. Despite their high cost of 2,000 dollars for six months of use, the mobile phones were very popular among criminals. The FBI announced that about 12,000 members of over 300 criminal organizations used the app until recently.

The new idea of the FBI worked. Criminals shared over 27 million messages using the app, which were delivered to investigation authorities in each relevant country. Drug smugglers in South America allegedly used a banana distributor and an Ecuadorean tuna company, for example, to smuggle narcotics to Asia and Europe. Belgian authorities seized 1,523 kilograms of cocaine based on leads from monitoring Anom messaging. More than 150 threats to human life were also disrupted. In Australia, a plot to kill five family members using a machine gun was exposed before it took place.

Three years of sting operations using Anom to prevent a number of drug smuggling, murders by contract, illegal weapon trade, and other criminal activities came to an end as the warrant of one of the countries engaged in cooperative investigations to send information to the U.S. expired on Monday.

Jong-Yeob JO jjj@donga.com