Criminals have been using the supposedly highly secure encrypted chat app ANOM, which was installed on mobile phones bought on the black market, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement on Tuesday. The devices were stripped of all other functions and could only send messages via ANOM, which was becoming increasingly popular in criminal circles.
What the users did not know was that the app was covertly run by the FBI, and Australian police helped to decrypt the messages.
“These criminal influencers put the AFP in the back pocket of hundreds of alleged offenders,” AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.
Kershaw said officers thwarted 21 murder plots, including of a family of five, shut down six drug labs, seized 104 pieces of firearms and other weapons, and nearly $45 million in cash. Roughly 3.7 tons of drugs were confiscated as well.
In Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) state alone, officers detained 35 people, seized 27 guns, including a 50-caliber sniper rifle, and “significant quantities” of drugs, such as cocaine, cannabis, and MDMA.