The stolen crime chat app sold with tech support • The Register


Australian Federal Police have revealed more about how they distributed a backdoor chat app to criminals.

The app, named An0m, came to light in June 2021 when the Australian Federal Government (AFP), FBI and European authorities revealed that they had teamed up to convince criminals that the software allowed secure communications. The app ran on conventional Android smartphones modified to run An0m and nothing else.

AFP today revealed a bit more about how the app and the phones that run it have been seeded. The Force described the following four stages:

  • The wholesalers were medium to high level criminals, some with exclusive distribution rights in certain countries and regions;
  • Agents had distribution rights for particular territories – they employed staff to recruit more clients and deal with “client” issues;
  • Representatives were resellers who sold devices to associates and collected subscription fees; and
  • Drivers were employed to deliver the An0m handsets.

But An0m was stolen, so law enforcement could observe crimes chatting happily among themselves, often freely discussing criminal plots.

The resulting law enforcement efforts – Special Operation Ironside in Australia, Operation Trojan Shield in the United States and elsewhere – have proven to be very productive.

In Australia alone, more than 700 arrest warrants have been executed, 311 people have been charged and 6.3 tonnes of illicit drugs plus A $ 52 million ($ 37 million) of dirty money have been seized. Globally, another 993 suspects have been arrested, more than 42 tons of illicit drugs have been seized, and more than $ 58 million in cash and cryptocurrency is now in the hands of authorities.

AFP today announced a new phase of Operation Ironside, based on a more in-depth analysis of more than 19 million messages relating to criminal activity in Australia. The arrest of a man allegedly involved in supplying methamphetamine has been attributed to this intelligence and to messages exchanged between Australia and members of motorcycle gangs in Turkey.

AFP’s announcement of its progress also offers the observation that “criminals have moved on to other encrypted devices” and predicts that “it is likely that some large unions will develop their own encrypted communication devices and dedicated private networks. over the next three years “. ®

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