The FBI sold smartphones to organized crime to spy on millions of “encrypted” messages.

The FBI announces an anti-organized crime operation that has arrested more than 800 people in 16 countries. The federal agency explains that it managed to spy on more than 27 million supposedly encrypted messages over 18 months without the knowledge of the criminals. To achieve their goals, the FBI simply sold them infected smartphones!

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The FBI announces an operation to combat international organized crime, in particular with criminal syndicates associated with drug trafficking and money laundering.… The agency explains that the investigation has arrested 800 people associated with criminal organizations in 16 countries – more arrests are planned in the coming weeks. To achieve such an impressive result, the FBI has resorted to very clever tactics.

It becomes very difficult to spy on data exchanges between criminals as they spend most of their time through end-to-end encrypted messages such as Signal or Telegram. Rather than trying to decrypt messages on criminals’ smartphones, the daunting task with current decryption tools means that The FBI has completely orchestrated the distribution of infected smartphones to organized crime.

FBI and Australian police hide behind secure smartphone supplier ANOM

To this end, the FBI entered into a partnership with the Australian Federal Police. they have “Strategically designed and discreetly managed encrypted smartphones ANOM has sold over 12,000 encrypted devices to over 300 crime syndicates in over 100 countries, including the Italian mafia, biker gangs and international drug trafficking organizations. … “– explains Europol in a press release.

The smartphones sold by the FBI had everything from the perfect smartphone for criminals… They were specially designed to do only one function: the hidden messaging service in the Calculator app. When the user opened this app, they had to enter a code to access the supposedly encrypted messaging, allowing text and photos to be sent.

Also read: FBI Hacks into Thousands of Computers Unbeknownst to Users to Protect them from Hafnium.

This FBI tip shows that there is no need to fight the spread of encryption on smartphones.

Obviously, none of these messages were actually encrypted – the encryption key was installed by the FBI – and they all ended up on the servers of the American agency. In order not to be exposed and to lend credibility to the approach underlying these devices, The FBI began selling smartphones on Dark Web platforms in October 2018.… Europol attributes the success of its devices to the fact that they provide certain features, including the ability to securely erase them from a distance or the use of stronger passwords.

Multiple Attacks Against Rival Secure Smartphone Vendors Helped ANOM’s Growth… The arrests we are talking about today are an epilogue over 18 months of investigation, during which officers gained unprecedented access to criminal communications… Apparently, users trusted these smartphones so much that they traded freely, without masking their comments with slang or codes.

The moral of the story is pretty positive. After years of fighting against encryption, agencies such as the FBI are finally beginning to realize that all necessary investigative actions can be achieved without forcing device manufacturers to compromise the security of their products or establish loopholes.

Source: Ars Technica

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