The FBI’s phone for criminals included a custom version of Android

The telephones the FBI sold to crooks for a sting operation weren’t simply operating a custom app — it seems the working system was additionally tweaked for these objectives. Motherboard has obtained one of the “Anom” telephones (actually, a modified Pixel 4a), and its mysterious “ArcaneOS” has a quantity of customizations that you simply would not essentially count on, even for a privacy-oriented phone.

For one, there are not any app shops. You can also’t toggle location monitoring. And do not assume you’ll be able to merely flash the system with third-party firmware to make it behave extra like regular telephones — the bootloader is locked though the startup display tells you the system has been modified.

Some consumer mentioned Anom was primarily based on the present GrapheneOS, however Anom might have lied to patrons in regards to the software program to instill a false sense of belief.

The interface does embrace some safety features that may enchantment to the legal audience, together with a hidden chat app (accessed by way of the “calculator” when it labored) and PIN scrambling. A wipe code characteristic that permits you to erase a phone from the lock display can also be current, though the Justice Department clearly did not like that characteristic when it charged some Anom builders with alleged obstruction of legislation enforcement.

At least one second-hand Anom phone proprietor say they received a Pixel 3a, suggesting the FBI transitioned to totally different units because the sting unfolded.

You would not need to buy one of these units, then, even for curiosity’s sake. However, it is now clear simply how far the FBI went to bust criminals. The company needed to present unsuspecting drug sellers the impression they had been utilizing a true encrypted phone, proper all the way down to the OS, even because the system quietly uncovered messages to legislation enforcement brokers.

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