Simanaitis Says

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THE VOICE OF AMERICA reports “800 Arrested in Global Organized Crime Investigation,” June 8, 2021. VOA says “Operation Trojan Shield involved police raids in 16 countries in which 250 firearms and 55 luxury cars were also seized, officials announced at a news conference in The Hague.” Along with the 800 suspects, authorities confiscated 32 tons of drugs and $148 million. 

Swapping Communication Channels. The multi-national effort began with law enforcement agencies taking down EncroChat and Sky ECC, two encrypted platforms used by crime syndicates. Then the FBI concocted a replacement: an app called ANOM that was installed in modified mobile phones.

DUH. Over the past 18 months, the FBI distributed these encrypted phones to more than 300 crime gangs operating in 100 countries. Little did these duped perps know that all their secret communications from then on were being monitored by the FBI. 

VOA reports, “Operation Trojan Shield was led by the FBI, but included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the European Union police agency Europol and law enforcement agencies in more than a dozen countries.”

Well-named Operation. The Trojan horse, of course, was a troop-stuffed Greek gift to the Trojans during Greek mythology’s Trojan War. The Greeks pretended to sail away as the Trojans paraded the horse through the city. They thought it was a victory trophy. Ha.

A Trojan horse, as depicted in Vergilius Vaticanus, c. 400 A.D.

 That night, the troops inside the horse emerged and opened the city gates for the rest of their returning forces. The Greeks won the waThis Time Around. Yan Zhuang, Elian Peltier, and Alan Feuer in The New York Times, June 8, 2021, report “The Criminals Thought the Devices Were Secure. But the Seller Was the F.B.I.” The writers describe, “The cellphones, procured on the black market, performed a single function hidden behind a calculator app: sending encrypted messages and photos.”

The New York Times account continues, “For years, organized crime figures around the globe relied on the devices to orchestrate international drug shipments, coordinate the trafficking of arms and explosives, and discuss contract killings, law enforcement officials said. Users trusted the devices’ security so much that they often laid out their plans not in code, but in plain language. Unbeknownst to them, the entire network was run by the FBI, in coordination with the Australian police.”

Alleged prep ponders Greek myth in Australian lockup. Image from the Australian Federal Police, via Reuters, in The New York Times, June 8, 2021.

Welcomed Trends. This Good Guy Con comes at the same time as news that ransomware loot is becoming increasingly difficult for Bad Guys to hide. 

NPR reports “How a New Team of Feds Hacked the Hackers and Got Colonial Pipeline’s Ransom Back,” by Vanesse Romo, June 8, 2021. Maybe the Bad Guys aren’t as smart as they think they are.

Maybe there’s truth in that adage, “That’s why they call it ‘dope.’ ” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

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