Australian officials said that US and Australian authorities hacked into apps used by criminals to read millions of encrypted messages, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of organized crime suspects in 18 countries.
Officials said that the Australian police and the FBI’s Ironside operation had captured suspects involved in international drug trafficking activities in Australia, Asia, South America and the Middle East.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that the operation “has a heavy blow to organized crime-not only in this country, but also in an organization that will resonate with organized crime networks around the world. country”.
“This is a turning point in the history of Australian law enforcement,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the police arrested hundreds of suspects in raids in 18 countries. Europol and the FBI stated on social media that they will hold a press conference later in the day.
Australia said it had arrested 224 people, including members of banned motorcycle gangs, and New Zealand said it had arrested 35 people. In operations that the Australian police and the FBI have been preparing since 2018, US officials have taken control of the ANOM messaging app that uses organized crime networks.
After a person belonging to an Australian underground organization started sharing a customized mobile phone containing the app with their colleagues as a secure means of communication, the police were able to monitor their messages. The group believes that the system is safe because the phone has no other options, no voice or camera function is loaded, and the application is encrypted.
“We are at the back of organized crime. They are talking about drugs, violence, mutual attacks, innocent people will be killed…” Kershaw said at the same press conference. The police executed Australia’s most search warrants in a single day, seizing 104 guns and nearly 34.9 million Australian dollars in cash yesterday.
A total of 525 allegations have been filed, but the authorities are expected to file allegations in the coming weeks.