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FBI nabs criminals with messaging app

Law enforcement officials walk past an Operation Trojan Shield logo at a news conference in San Diego, Tuesday. Associated Press/ Photo by Denis Poroy

FBI nabs criminals with messaging app

For the past year and a half, criminals around the world used a messaging service called ANOM to discuss hits, drug shipments, and other crimes. Little did they know ANOM was developed and monitored by the FBI, part of a global sting operation known as Trojan Shield. It led to the arrest of more than 800 suspects in 16 nations Monday, netting 32 tons of drugs, 250 firearms, and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.

How did criminals fall into this trap? The criminal underworld previously relied on secure messaging platforms such as EncroChat and Sky ECC. But once authorities shut down those resources, traffickers and gangs were in the market for a new communication app. The FBI developed ANOM in 2018 after taking down a company that built and sold encrypted devices. Agents recruited one of the collaborators who was developing a messaging platform for the criminal underworld. The agency provided phones via unsuspecting middlemen to gangs in more than 100 countries. Since the launch of ANOM in October 2019, authorities have collected more than 27 million messages sent from 12,000 devices.

Dig deeper: Read Maryrose Delahunty’s report on how police are using facial recognition technology to identify suspects and solve cases.

Leigh Jones

Leigh is acting managing editor for WORLD Radio. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.


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