While this may sound like the final act of a Martin Scorsese movie, this all actually happened and, yes, some of the details about the operation are wild to say the least.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently announced the end of a three-year-long international operation encompassing over 800 alleged members of organized crime syndicates in more than a dozen countries.
- While this may sound like the final act of a Martin Scorsese movie, this all actually happened and, yes, some of the details about the operation are wild to say the least.
What is “Trojan Shield?”
- The operation was called “Trojan Shield” and involved the same tactics that organized crime groups use to communicate with each other.
- In a statement, Europol called the operation “one of the largest and most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date in the fight against encrypted criminal activities."
- The goal of operation Trojan Shield was to provide communication devices to criminals that the criminals believed to be secure and untraceable.
- The reality is that these devices were actively being monitored by FBI agents.
How do criminals usually communicate with each other?
- Criminals involved in organized crime often communicate on encrypted devices that cannot be tracked.
- These devices are usually bought and sold through a trusted network of criminals that guarantees the privacy of these devices.
- Encrypted devices have caused massive issues when it comes to finding criminals. Look no further than the recent ransomware attacks affecting the meat and oil industries for evidence of this.
- These devices have been the backbone of criminal organizations as they represent the only way these criminals can safely communicate with each other … or so these organizations believed.
What did the FBI do to catch them?
- A little over three years ago, the FBI started its own encrypted device company, called “ANOM."
- The company was promoted and used by various criminals who believed the company was legit.
- According to the Department of Justice, the FBI ended up selling “more than 12,000 ANOM encrypted devices and services to more than 300 criminal syndicates operating in more than 100 countries, including Italian organized crime, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, and various international drug trafficking organizations, according to court records."
- Criminals were buying into ANOM and promoting it to their peers for years before the FBI pulled the rug out from under them.
What kind of evidence did the FBI find?
- The FBI gathered an absolutely insane amount of evidence into these organizations.
- Overall, the entire investigation resulted in around 800 arrests. In addition, more than eight tons of cocaine were confiscated.
- Along with the confiscated cocaine, 22 tons of marijuana, two tons of methamphetamine/amphetamine, six tons of precursor chemicals, 250 firearms and more than US$48 million in various worldwide currencies were confiscated.
- This was a massive victory for law enforcement agencies worldwide and the operation is already changing how these agencies are able to catch these criminals.
- “This was an unprecedented operation in terms of its massive scale, innovative strategy and technological and investigative achievement,” said Acting United States Attorney Randy Grossman. “Hardened encrypted devices usually provide an impenetrable shield against law enforcement surveillance and detection. The supreme irony here is that the very devices that these criminals were using to hide from law enforcement were actually beacons for law enforcement.
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