ANOM: The Messaging App Helps Arrest Hundreds

By Luka E

An FBI-run encrypted messaging app called ANOM recently helped to arrest over 800 criminals across 18 different countries. The app allowed law enforcement to monitor gang communications about drug smuggling, money laundering, and even murder plots. 

Image courtesy of The Australian Federal Police /

The Trojan Shield/Greenlight operation has struck a heavy blow against organized crime worldwide, says Australian prime minister Scott Morrison. Among the seizures were drugs, luxury vehicles, and cash, including 8 tons of cocaine, a collection of memorabilia from The Godfather, and more than $48 million in various global currencies and cryptocurrencies. 

How Did They Do It?

Australia and the FBI thought up the operation after authorities took two other encrypted messaging services down and the criminal underground wanting new secure communication options. 

The FBI created and operated the encrypted messaging service called ANOM, which was covertly distributed amongst the underground by informants. Initially, the primary users were known seniors of the crime world, which made others feel comfortable using it. 

“You had to know a criminal to get hold of one of these customized phones. The phones couldn’t ring or email. You could only communicate with someone on the same platform,” explained the Australian police. 

Hakan Ayik, an Australian fugitive, and alleged drug trafficker, was key in making the operation work. He unknowingly spread the spy app to his associates by recommending it to them after an undercover officer gave him a phone with the app installed.

Police have said that he would be better off handing himself in if news of his helping the operation (albeit by mistake) puts him in danger.