At least 250 people have been arrested around the world in an international police operation that used “Trojan horse” technology to target drug dealers, the mafia and other organized crime organizations.
Australian police said on Tuesday they had thwarted 21 murder plots and seized 3.7 tons of drugs during the operation that secretly spotted an encrypted communications platform used by criminal gangs.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has gained access to the AN0M platform, enabling Australian police to monitor more than 25 million messages sent in real time. Australian and US investigators said at a joint news conference that the communications detailed murder plots, drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Hinge Police operation that lasted three years.
Police said 9,000 officers took part in coordinated raids in several countries and that 224 people had been arrested in Australia and 35 in New Zealand. Details of police operations in Germany, the United States and other countries are due to be released later on Tuesday.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said the international process marked a turning point in law enforcement.
“As part of a global operation, the Australian government has dealt a heavy blow to organized crime – not just in this country, but a blow that will reverberate around organized crime around the world,” he said.
Police Sting has been marked by the latest use of technologies such as spyware and Trojan horse programs during investigations by law enforcement authorities with organized criminals and terrorist organizations.
The AN0M application is installed on mobile phones that have been stripped of any other capability. The phones, which were bought on the black market, cannot make calls or send emails. Australian police said in a statement that they can only send messages to another device containing the organized crime app.
Police said the devices were circulated organically and grew in popularity among criminals, who were confident in the app’s security because prominent figures in organized crime ensured its integrity.
Greg Barton, a counter-terrorism expert at Deakin University in Melbourne, said the deployment of Trojan horse software to modified phones was a great example of using social engineering to fight organized crime.
“The Australian police authorities and their counterparts around the world will have collected more information about the work of organized criminals and have obstructed their operations for a while,” he said.
“These are important temporary victories in the endless cat-and-mouse fights with criminals.”