Australian officials announced on Tuesday that Australian and U.S. agencies hacked into an app used by criminals and read millions of encrypted messages, leading to hundreds of detentions of suspected organised crime figures in eighteen countries.
The officials said the operation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Australian police ensnared suspects in Australia, South America, Asia and the Middle East involved in the global narcotics trade.
Named Operation Trojan Shield by the FBI, it is considered to be one of the biggest infiltrations and takeovers of a specialized encrypted network.
The operation “struck a heavy blow against organised crime – not just in this country, but one that will echo … around the world,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He also told reporters in Sydney that “this is a watershed moment in Australian law enforcement history.”
Police raids in eighteen countries netted hundreds of suspects, said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw.
New Zealand said it had arrested 35 people while Australia said it had detained 224 people, including members of outlawed motorcycle gangs.