Criminal gangs believed their communication were encrypted, but the FBI provided the communications system.

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On a secure communications system surreptitiously managed by the FBI, criminal gangs revealed plans for moving drug shipments and killings, law enforcement authorities claimed Tuesday, as they disclosed a global sting operation they said dealt an “unprecedented blow” to organized crime around the world.

Police raids were carried out in 16 countries as part of the Trojan Shield operation. More than 800 people were detained, and more than 32 tonnes of drugs were recovered, including cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines, and methamphetamines, as well as 250 guns, 55 luxury cars, and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrency.

According to court documents, the sting began in 2018 when law enforcement authorities shut down a company called Phantom Secure, which provided criminals with bespoke end-to-end encrypted devices. The gadgets, unlike traditional cell phones, do not make phone calls or browse the internet, but they do allow for encrypted communications.

As a result of the operation, the FBI also enlisted the help of a collaborator who was working on ANOM, a next-generation secure communications network for the criminal underworld. The mechanism was designed by the collaborator to provide the agency access to any messages that were transmitted.

ANOM did not take off right away. However, as authorities shut down other secure platforms used by criminal gangs to arrange drug trafficking, underworld hits, and money laundering, primarily EncroChat and Sky ECC, gangs were looking for a new one, and the FBI’s platform was ready.

Over the last 18 months, the agency has provided phones to over 300 gangs operating in over 100 countries through unwary middlemen. Acquired and evaluated intelligence “We were able to avoid killings because of this. It resulted in the seizure of drugs, which in turn resulted in the seizure of firearms. It also aided in the prevention of a number of crimes ” at a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, stated.