Police raids around world after investigators crack An0m cryptophone app in major hacking operation
Police in sixteen countries have launched multiple raids after intercepting the communications of organised criminal groups in the biggest police hacking operation undertaken to date.
Drug deals and other criminal groups in the UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US were sending messages on an encrypted communications network, unaware that it was being run the FBI.
The network, known as AN0M, offered encrypted Android phones and an encrypted computer platform that claimed to offer its users secure communications.
The platform is the latest in string of encrypted communications networks, known as criminally dedicated secure communications (CDSC) networks to breached by law enforcement.
Europol described the operation, which it said targeted some of the world’s foremost criminals, as the “most sophisticated effort to date to disrupt the activities of criminals operating from all four corners of the world.”
The An0n network was cracked by a technical expert of Australian Federal Police (AFP), who developed a “trojan horse app” that was able to decrypt messages and read them in real time.
The Australian Federal Police said that investigators were able to monitor 25 million messages from criminal groups involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and murder.
Nick Ryan, assistant commissioner told news.co.au that investigators had “insight into every criminal’s dealings.”
Criminals, described by the police as high-level targets, spoke openly on the platform about drug offending, money laundering and murders.
The project, codenamed Operation Ironside by the Australian police, was the equivalent of carrying out 20 years of policing in only two months, said Ryan.
The first hints of the operation emerged on the morning of 7 July when a German news sites reported that police had raided drug laboratories, cannabis plantations and cocaine storage facilities across.
Spiegel reported that German police conducted searches of more than 100 searches of suspected drugs criminals, including the state of Hessen, in the early hours of the morning.
In Sweden, svt reported, police raided addresses in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Helsingbord.
The Australian Federal Police said that 4,500 officers across Australia were executing 100s of search warrants this morning.
Detective Superintendent Des Appelby said: “Ironside is the biggest job I’ve ever undertaken. Its huge in scope. It’s like 16 major investigators all put together as one big job across Australia and across the world.”
The operation comes three months after Belgium and Dutch police announced they had cracked the Sky ECC cryptophone network used by 70,000 people worldwide.
The French Gendermarie, working with the Dutch Police, cracked the EncroChat encrypted phone network in April 2020.
The investigation led to arrests around the world, including over 1,500 arrests by UK police forces and regional organised crime groups, led by the National Crime Agency in operation Venetic.
Sixteen countries took part in a co-ordinated operation against criminals using AN0M, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada the UK, Scotland and the USA.
Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands also took part in the operation.