Tech

With fake app AN0M against drug trafficking: raids in 16 countries

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Such a blow to illegal drug trafficking is unlikely to have been successful: in around 18 countries, enormous amounts of drugs, money and other assets were seized during searches on Monday, suspects were arrested and charges were pronounced. According to Australian reports, this was achieved thanks to a specially created app called AN0M. The suspects believed they were using a particularly secure communications service and paid fees for it.

The daily News reported Monday eveningthat the FBI had obtained access to data from a provider of encrypted communications. According to Australian media reports, it was different: Apparently, the FBI set up the “encrypted” communications service AN0M in 2018 and listened to it together with the Australian Federal Police AFP. The aim was to lure, wiretap and puncture criminals.

At the FBI, the project runs under the name Operation Trojan Shield, in Australia under Operation Ironside, in New Zealand as Operation Spyglass. Europol, which has taken over the international coordination, will hold a press conference Tuesday at 10 a.m. Authorities have also scheduled press conferences in the USA. The FBI legal representative in Australia, Anthony Russo, stressed the importance of international cooperation against organized crime.

According to Australian media reports, this was thought up by an IT expert from the Australian Federal Police AFP while consuming a legal drug with FBI agents. To the outside world, AN0M appeared as a secretive communication service based in Panama and with strong encryption. Normal users could not download the app so easily because an invitation code is required to access the website.

According to the reports, authorities installed the AN0M app on cell phones, which they were able to distribute through middlemen in the underworld. 11,000 suspects are said to have fallen into this trap. For almost three years, investigators listened to the conversations and recorded 27 million messages. In addition to drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons deals, it should also have been murder orders. On Monday there was a big hit on at least three continents.

On Tuesday, police officers were heavily involved in Germany, Austria, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the USA and about ten other countries. German special forces have never had such a busy day. In Hesse alone, around 60 objects are said to have been searched, including laboratories, hemp plantations and drug bunkers. The large-scale wiretapping is also said to have uncovered trafficking in war weapons and prohibited weapon accessories, money laundering and other crimes.

Australian authorities say they prevented 21 murders. On Monday, 4,500 officers carried out no fewer than 500 house searches, more than 200 suspects were charged, several tons of drugs, over 100 firearms and the equivalent of more than 28 million euros in cash and objects were seized. Prime Minister Scott Morrison immediately called for more money and more power for the police, including wiretapping in foreign countries.

New Zealand police, along with customs, coast guards and the military, have also seized drugs, weapons and money. Several contract killers are among the arrested criminals. In Australia, 1650 cell phones with the non-secure app AN0M are said to have been in circulation, in New Zealand 57.

AN0M profiles in social networks were deleted on Monday. Content and the support chat are also said to have been removed from the website. The keyword tags on the homepage show that AN0M offered both text messages and voice communication and pretended to be end-to-end encryption using methods such as AES, Argon2 and OMEMO. The identity of the user would not be recorded, promised AN0M.

Only the date of the account creation and the date of the most recent connection would be saved, is on the AN0M page. And this information would only be revealed on the orders of Panamanian authorities, after paying a fee of at least 2,000 US dollars and waiting at least two weeks. In addition, every user affected would be informed immediately about such inquiries from the authorities so that they could defend themselves in court.

[Update 1:51 Uhr, 2:18 Uhr:] Diverse Figures updated based on the latest information from Australian authorities. [/Update]


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