brilliance in action

The criminals thought the devices were secure. But the seller was the FBI.The devices supposedly let criminals send encrypted messages and organize illegal activity. The entire network was run by the FBI.

On Tuesday, global law enforcement officials revealed the three-year operation, in which they said they had intercepted over 20 million messages, and arrested at least 800 people in more than a dozen countries.

The operation, known as Trojan Shield, represents a breakthrough for law enforcement. Although the authorities have cracked or shut down encrypted platforms in the past — such as one called EncroChat that the police in Europe successfully hacked — this is the first known instance in which officials have controlled an entire encrypted network from its inception.

Europol, the European police agency, described the effort as “one of the largest and most sophisticated law enforcement operations to date in the fight against encrypted criminal activities.”