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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alongside several international law enforcement agencies recently revealed their secret against encrypted criminal activities around the globe.

In a united front, the FBI, Australian Federal Police (AFP), and several European law enforcement agencies, such as Europol, conducted 800 international criminal arrests due to their hidden network monitoring. As it turns out, a litany of criminals buys phones for communication off the black market. These phones are used to organise drug trafficking, robberies, money laundering, contracts for murder, etc. with detailed written and visual descriptions of such acts. However, for almost three years, law enforcement agencies have been coordinating and watching all these events play out.

The phones that criminals use come with a pre-installed software called ANoM, which appears to be a secure encryption platform but in reality, is a backdoor to FBI investigation. In late 2018, the AFP programmed software to decrypt the secure messages and feed them directly to the FBI. Over time, ‘Operation Ironside’ saw 17 countries participating in the fight against international crime. This initiative resulted in the arrest of key drug cartel operators, triad groups, syndicates, “eight tons of cocaine, 22 tons of marijuana and hashish, two tons of methamphetamine and amphetamine, 250 firearms, 55 luxury vehicles and more than $48 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.” Moreover, law enforcement officials poured through 27 million messages in various languages to eventually pinpoint and isolate offenders.

What is alarming is that the very devices that criminal’s thought were safe acted as “beacons for law enforcement.” In a digital world, nothing is secure. With the overarching power of government bodies, this operation is sure to seriously setback criminal endeavours going into the future and will make offenders think twice about their actions.

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