At least 250 people have been arrested worldwide in an international police operation that uses “Trojan Horse” technology to target drug traffickers, mafias and other organized crime organizations.
Australian police said Tuesday they had disrupted 21 murder plots and seized 3.7 tonnes of drugs during the operation, which closely monitored an encrypted communications platform used by criminal gangs.
The FBI in the United States has gained access to the AN0M platform, allowing Australian police to monitor more than 25m of messages sent in real time. Communications allegedly detailing plots of murder, drug smuggling and other illegal activities, Australian and American investigators said at a joint news conference that detailed the three-year police operation.
Police said 9,000 officers were involved in coordinated raids in several countries and that there were 224 arrests in Australia and 35 in New Zealand. Details of police operations in Germany, the United States and other countries were released after Tuesday.
Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, said the international operation marked a strong point in law enforcement.
“The Australian government, as part of a global operation, has dealt a heavy blow against organized crime – not just in this country, but one that will stand up to organized crime around the world,” he said.
The police sting operation marked the latest use of technologies such as spyware and Trojan horse software during investigations by organized crime order authorities and terrorist organization.
The AN0M app has been installed on mobile phones that have been stripped of any other capability. The phones, which were purchased on the black market, could not call or send emails. They could only send messages to another device that had the crime app organized, Australian police said in a statement.
The devices circulated organically and grew in popularity among criminals, who were confident in the security of the application because high-profile organized crime figures ensured their integrity, police said.
Greg Barton, a counter-terrorism expert at Deakin University in Melbourne, said the implementation of the Trojan horse software on the modified phones was a brilliant example of the use of social engineering to fight organized crime.
“Australian police authorities and their counterparts around the world have gathered more insight into the functioning of organized crime and have disrupted their operations for a period of time,” he said.
“These are important temporary victories in endless battles of cats and mice with criminals.”