About a month ago, it was revealed that an encrypted phone company was actually a front for a giant FBI operation called “Trojan Shield.” The company, which was truly a law enforcement honey pot, sold a product called “ANOM,” an encrypted chat application installed on specific, hardened phones that the agency secretly distributed to track and monitor organized criminal groups.
Criminals thought they were getting a secure, impenetrable communication platform, but in reality their network was owned by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies – the devices were designed by the agency in cooperation with a high-level criminal informant who had previously sold such hardened, encrypted devices to the underworld network.
Now, it is reported by motherboards that these phones are strangely sold in the secondary market and appear on Craigslist-like forums and online retailers.
Online forums dedicated to Android merchandise have been teeming with talk about how these phones, removed from their original powers, now seem to be circulating as cheap, used products on online retailer sites.
“I bought this phone online at a ridiculously low price, now I understand why,” a used buyer told the motherboard. “This phone was probably used by some drug dealer: D,” they added.
“This is a phone that was used with the FBI ANON [sic] application to read the message with the users, ”wrote another forum user helpful in a poorly worded PSA.
For the most part, the phones do not seem to work anymore and many of them have been largely wiped out by theirs spooky features. It’s also unclear who sells these devices, although one could assume that they are being paddled by previous users trying to avoid the heat – or at least just get some of their money back.
The motherboard actually managed to get hold of one of the phones and get it from one of the people who had bought it used. Thus, the socket has revealed some really interesting details about the device, and suffice it to say, it is quite strange.
At first glance, the phone seems normal: A user enters a PIN code to log in and leads them to what looks like a fairly normal home screen. But the device is equipped with what is, in essence lure apps – things like Netflix, Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder – that, if you click on them, actually do not work. Instead of getting a working interface, a user has to reset the phone and enter another PIN code. Doing so resets the home screen, leaving only a clock and a calculator app and device settings. If the calculator app is clicked, it will provide a new login screen asking the user to enter an “Anom ID” and a password. From there, the real purpose of the phone is opened – to function as an encrypted, secret communication channel.
The phone apparently offers “a shortcut to what appears to be a wipe feature on the phone, with an icon showing a piece of paper going through a shredder,” the motherboard reports, referring to an apparent data wipe feature.
So yeah, pretty cut-and-dagger stuff. Still, if you see a cheap, weird phone for sale on a obscure web forum that matches this description, probably best avoided. You are either sold to a useless, former honey pot unit or perhaps stumbled upon the next federal sting operation, both of which sound like bad times all around.