The FBI and Australian police came up with an ingenious operation in 2018 called "Trojan Shield" or "Ironside" that sold criminals phones with a messaging app called ANOM that they believed would keep them from being tracked.
Here's what happened after police across the world tracked millions of messages on the app:
From the article:
The app was then sold to organized crime officials, unbeknownst to them that they were being monitored. Those crime officials then distributed phones containing the app to associates, believing the phones to be secure, the Guardian reported.
Over the next two years, law enforcement in more than 100 countries was able to monitor the internal communications of more than 300 criminal groups, including plans for drug smuggling, money laundering, and even murder.
This week, police in 16 nations conducted raids and arrested at least 800 perps from 18 countries at minimum.
Tons of drugs, cryptocurrencies, luxury cars, and weapons were also seized in the raids, along with $148 million in cash.
Think about it: Law enforcement didn't just hack into an encrypted messaging app here. Instead, they helped create it, promote it, and watch it grow.
The FBI was reportedly first given access by a criminal informant who was involved in the development of this next-gen encrypted app:
Australian federal police commissioner Reece Kershaw said all the criminals would talk about on the phones was "drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people who are going to be murdered."
FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers said the operation saved at least 100 people's lives.
A bunch of further details from the FBI can be found here.