DOJ Charges Criminal ‘Influencers’ Who Worked for FBI’s Honeypot Phone Company — Joseph Cox at Vice

The FBI set up a company to build phones that ran a messaging app called Anom, used to eavesdrop on criminals, and now it’s arresting people who worked for the company.

“The defendants, some of which are international fugitives, include people in Turkey, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Colombia, and Thailand. The DOJ is charging them under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law traditionally used to target mafia bosses, but which the DOJ has recently used to prosecute encrypted phone companies that deliberately sold devices to criminals.”

There’s a whole underground tech industry out there, with tech support and “influencers” — well-known crime figures with reputations for knowledge and expertise in hardened encryption devices.

“‘Distributors’ provide technical support for customers, send money back up to the parent company, and manage ‘agents,’ who in turn are on the ground meeting and engaging with customers of the phones. These staff all remained anonymous even to one another in order to try and evade law enforcement, the document reads.

We’ve seen something like this before, with ransomware organizations that run help desks to support technically unsophisticated victims. Supposedly the help desk operators are friendly and helpful.