Spain has third most users of criminal chat app ANOM

by Deborah Cater
ANOM is popular among Spanish criminals
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For three years, the FBI, Australian police and Interpol were able to read all messages sent via ANOM. A popular crypto communication service among criminals, ANOM was “unbreakable”.

In reality, the app was marketed by the police. It has been known for a number of years criminals like to use so-called crypto telephones. These devices contain software to encrypt the data traffic so that mutual communication can be carried out in a secure manner, free from police wiretapping. Nevertheless, the police have managed to crack a similar service a number of times.

In 2017, the FBI arrested the CEO of Phantom Secure, a popular crypto phone at the time. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison and Phantom disappeared from the market. At the same time, the FBI and Australian police recruited an informer who was developing a new crypto service.

Operation Trojan Shield

In exchange for a reduced sentence and $180,000, the informant cooperated with the police. They launched a new “unhackable” crypto communication service: ANOM. The chat app thus filled the gap left by Phantom and used the same distribution network. Criminals thought they were sending messages safely, not knowing that the police could read them. According to Interpol, more than 27 million messages were obtained during operation “Trojan Shield”. The app was used on more than 12,000 devices by more than 300 criminal gangs, active in more than 100 countries.

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Arrests in Spain

The intercepted messages also led to big drug busts and important arrests in Spain. The Guardia Civil had access to messages containing specific information about the shipment and distribution of 1616 kilos of cocaine from Ecuador. The cargo with a street value of €48million was intercepted in the port of Algeciras on April 29, 2021. They also broke up a drug network and arrested 28 suspects.

The Spanish Policía Nacional also intercepted a shipment of cocaine in the port of Algeciras. Thanks to the encrypted messages, they tracked down 8 kilos of cocaine on May 12, hidden in a container with pineapples. Five suspects were arrested.

After Germany and the Netherlands, the app was most used in Spain.

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