The French newspaper “Le Figaro” said that the encrypted messaging application “ANOM” for the police will be recorded among the most important technological successes of the police; It enabled the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and police forces – in several countries – to achieve a historical “hunt”, during which they collected and stored a huge amount of correspondence after convincing criminals around the world to use it.
The felt newspaper that the ingenuity in this work does not lie only in the technology used; As much as it lies in the social engineering used to implant this “Trojan horse” in the targets, although criminal circles have been adopting – for several years – methods in encrypted phones that enable them to communicate beyond the reach of the authorities.
The newspaper pointed out that the dismantling of Phantom Secure, which specializes in designing ultra-secure BlackBerry devices for criminals, in 2018 and the banning of the famous mafia communication tool, Sky ECC, shortly after, created a void in the market; So the FBI experts seized the opportunity, and presented the idea of filling it with a workaround designed specifically to allow them to infiltrate these networks.
The office resorted – according to the newspaper – to a developer in this field; To build him in the same way a system of encrypted devices, in exchange for a promise of reduced prison sentences and some money, so this developer recovered a smartphone, removed the traditional features, and replaced it with the encrypted messaging application “Anom”, and added to the phone software that allows, in real time, the authorities to decrypt all Messages and photos that users will send in the future.
To create confidence in the first testing phase; The developer went to the same “distributor network” of “Phantom Secure”, initially offering 50 models for sale in the Australian criminal market, as of October 2018, and stipulated to obtain the device – as an elaborate marketing mechanism – that it be “sponsored” by another criminal To enhance confidence.
technology race سباق
At the same time – as the newspaper says – rumors were coordinated to cast doubt on the rival “Zero” (Ciphr) system, to expand the user base of Anom at an increasing speed and cross continents after a slow start, as this phone was used by hundreds of criminals in the summer of 2019, which enabled The police collected and stored 27 million messages from 11,800 devices in 100 countries.
However, this round that the police won was – according to the newspaper – just one step in the technological race between them and the criminals, as David Weinberger – director of the International Crime Observatory at the French Institute of International Relations and Strategy – says that communication in a safe manner is the main issue.
Therefore, Weinberger expects that criminals have already tried to find other solutions, such as new networks that rely on a satellite or otherwise, noting that “there are home-made networks in Mexico that allow avoiding the use of traditional networks”, especially since financial resources are available and some groups invest millions of dollars in research and technology development.