Oceania's criminal elite spent three years using a 'secure messaging' app, AN0M ... created and managed by the police

The Australian and New Zealand authorities have just dealt a severe blow to organized crime in that remote part of the world, after arresting more than 250 alleged members of mafias, foreign crime syndicates and motorcycle gangs operating in their territory. And all this, thanks to a mobile app.

The name of the app is AN0M, and it had been used by the criminal 'cream of the crop' which operated in Oceania as an encrypted messaging tool, so that the police could not access its communications. Was it finally able to break encryption of AN0M, as did Europol a year ago with EncroChat?

Not exactly: Australian and New Zealand police did not need to break that encryption because they had had access to the messages of the criminals at all times: AN0M was a fake secure app, secretly run by its American counterpart, the FBI.

Crime influencers popularized the app

The 'Operation Ironside' consisted use police informants to bring terminals equipped with this app to the black market (In fact, they only served to use this app, no calls or emails), and get the 'influencers' of the criminal world to start using them.

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These telephones, which could only be acquired if the criminals knew of a colleague from their 'guild' who already used them, began to use them.

"circulate organically, and grew in popularity among criminals, who trusted the app's legitimacy because high-profile organized crime figures vouched for its integrity."

In fact, the trust was such that many of the criminals began to place in the application (it was very important that Australia's main drug trafficker, Hakan Ayik, was an active drug user) that many of them stopped using pseudonyms or code language when debating their operations, believing that mere encryption would save them from prying eyes.

In the words of Reece Kershaw, Director of the Australian Federal Police,

"Essentially, we have been in the back pockets of organized crime […] ANoM has given law enforcement a never-before-seen window into the criminal world. "

Kershaw encouraged Hakan Ayik, still a fugitive, to turn himself in to the Federal Police for his own safety and that of his family, implying that they were in serious danger due to the role it unwittingly played in popularizing the use of the app among the underworld of Oceania.

In Australia alone, Operation Ironside has allowed the seizure -in a massive raid involving 4,000 officers- During the last three years, 3.7 tons of drugs, 35 million dollars in cash, and almost a hundred weapons; what's more, 21 assassination plots have been aborted and 6 criminal organizations dismantled.

Apparently, the completion of the operation had to be accelerated - after three years in progress - after a blog by an anonymous cybersecurity expert made public the unreliable nature of AN0M as an encrypted tool. The blog is no longer available on the Internet, but it is still visible in the Google cache.

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