Anom — The Story of a Big Deception
Recently, the world community was shocked by the news: The FBI and Europol conducted a special operation to catch the criminals. About 20 countries of the world (including Canada, Estonia, Denmark, and others) were involved, which jointly participated in the unique Trojan Shield special operation.
It became known from the report that for several years law enforcement agencies controlled their own private messenger called Anom (aka An0m or Anøm), similar to the now defunct Encrochat and Phantom Secure messengers.
Criminals used this platform worldwide, and therefore the police had access to all their correspondence and could monitor all of their actions.
Today, we’ll tell you about the Anon messenger and the history of catching criminals.
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Back in early 2020, the Encrochat platform, which had more than 60 thousand users from the criminal world, was eliminated due to law enforcement agencies.
Encrochat phones guaranteed users privacy and security. For example, there was no need to enter a personal number to register. In addition, anonymity was reinforced by a modified device: it lacked a camera, microphone, USB port, or GPS module.
These devices were built for two operating systems at once: Android (for private use), and OC Encrochat (for confidential conversations.) In addition, the devices were developed taking into account the BQ Aquaris X2 database. These are Android-based smartphones created by a Spanish electric company.
Further, the operators of the Encrochat platform have created special programs and applications for exchanging messages between users. The entire transmission process was carried out using a special technology for routing all traffic. The traffic passed through encrypted servers. In addition, the devices had the function of self-destruction of data if they fell into the hands of outsiders.
After the information about Encrochat was made public, about 750 people were arrested, more than 50 million pounds were seized, more than 70 weapons, 55 cars, and about 2 tons of drugs.
The Netherlands was considered separately. According to estimates, about 20 laboratories that were engaged in the production of drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine (about 1,200 kilograms and 10 tons, respectively) were liquidated here. Moreover, several disguised prisons and torture chambers were found in Belgium.
Shortly before these events, in 2018, executive director Vincent Ramos was arrested. He was accused of production “unbreakable” phones for criminal under the name Phantom.
The company’s servers were located in Panama and Hong Kong. In addition, proxies were used to hide the real location. All phones were equipped with a remote data destruction function if they end up in the hands of third parties.
*Note: For six months paid subscription ($3000), the user received a phone where special software equipped with encryption was already installed. All payments were in Bitcoin.
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In addition, all phones were equipped with such functions as GPS navigators, cameras, messenger, internet, microphone, etc. All functions were created and installed according to the needs of users of the criminal world.
What about Anom?
Shortly after the events with Phantom phones, an unknown insider who previously worked for this company agreed to cooperate with law enforcement officers. He helped to create a messenger that provides confidential communication through the use of an advanced encrypted device. The product was named Anom.
Further, it was decided to distribute the device in criminal circles, in order to obtain all the relevant information about the upcoming illegal actions. The idea was recognized as interesting and work began on the distribution of the device and the application.
Like other alternative devices for communicating criminals, Anom could be obtained after the recommendation of the previous user. Thus, law enforcement agencies lulled the vigilance of criminals. Anom has got all the same main feature of all devices — security. The device had only one communication application.
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Anom’s popularity and distribution was also influenced by the fact that previous devices such as the Phantom Secure and Encrochat had ceased to exist, and criminals needed a means of secure communication.
The developed application was distributed using word of mouth. In addition, the site was involved anom.io, which helped the owners of devices to send encrypted messages. However, other applications and communication services could not be installed on the device, to ensure data security.
Anom was designed to invisibly attach a master key to every message written through the application, allowing law enforcement to decrypt and store all messages that passed through the platform as they were transmitted.
Moreover, all Anom devices were configured in such a way as to transmit all copies of messages using a special XMPP or iBot bot (developed by the FBI.) The bot decrypted all incoming and outgoing messages, and then re-encrypted them with a unique key that was controlled by the special services.
After the device’s popularity went beyond Australia, law enforcement officers tracked a vast network of more than 10 thousand devices in 90 countries worldwide. It was most popular in Germany, Serbia, Spain, and the Netherlands. In addition, the device united about 300 different international criminal organizations.
An interesting fact: Back in March of this year, some criminal organizations began to guess that the application transmitted all their conversations to third-party XMPP servers. For example, a now-deleted study on this topic is saved in the Google cache. Shortly after that, the terms of several warrants and powers of the law enforcement officers expired, and it was decided to curtail the operation.
Despite the fact that representatives of the FBI were responsible for the operation, all the necessary documents and legal details about the success of the operation were prepared by Australian law enforcement agencies. This was due to the fact that it was on the territory of Australia that the main actions unfolded. After processing all the files, they were sent to the United States three times a week, for additional control.
During the entire operation, more than 25 million encrypted messages were analyzed, in which the hatters discussed not only the supply of drugs and weapons, but also organized attempts and murders.
As a result of the operation, the leaders of the criminal world were detained, as well as hundreds of other persons who took part in illegal crimes.
Now, many searches and detentions are still ongoing, and thanks to Anom, some crimes have been and will be solved and prevented.