American and Australian law enforcement agencies have arrested hundreds of people suspected of belonging to criminal organizations and of drug smuggling in 18 countries, including in the Middle East. The agencies infiltrated the communications networks of crime organizations via a cyber sting operation. The operation enabled the infiltration of apps being used by the criminal networks. During the operation, the investigators read millions of encrypted messages.
Official sources in Australia told Reuters that the Australian police and the U.S. FBI arrested suspects in Australia, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East who were involved in the drug smuggling networks. The operation named "Trojan Shield" was one of the biggest operations based on infiltration of encrypted networks. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the operation is a major blow to organized crime and the underworld around the globe. There were 224 suspects arrested in Australia alone, and 35 members of drug networks arrested in New Zealand.
The operation started close to two years ago. The investigators took control of a messaging app called ANOM used by the criminal gangs. One underworld figure started to distribute telephones containing the app to his colleagues, believing their communications were secure. The telephones had no other purpose, and they had no voice or camera functions other than those of the app. But it was precisely via this method that the police succeeded in locating the app and infiltrating it.
The crime organizations were so sure that their communications were secure that they openly sent messages such as "we’ll have a speedboat meet you at this point," a senior Australian police officer said. The operation also prevented murder. The authorities found out about a plan to carry out a gunfire attack on a café in order to kill a family of five people. The plot was discovered and thwarted.
During the investigations in Australia, 104 firearms, including sniper rifles, and 45 million Australian dollars were captured. A package with 7 million dollars was discovered in a safe hidden under a shed in a suburb of Sydney. So far, 525 indictments have been issued in Australia.