Two Malaysians held over hacking charges by the US

  • Nation
  • Friday, 18 Sep 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysians were detained in Perak in connection with cybercrime and money laundering after the United States applied for the suspects to be extradited there to face charges.

Bukit Aman CID director Comm Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the suspects – a businessman in his 40s and a computer analyst in his 30s – were detained at about 8.45am on Monday.

In a statement yesterday, Comm Huzir said a team from Interpol’s National Central Bureau and Organised Crime Division of the national police, its Special Branch department and Commercial Crime Investigation Department’s Forensic Division arrested the two.

“They were suspected of being involved in money laundering and cyber crime in that country,” he added in the statement.

The United States had applied for the extradition of the two suspects on Sept 3 and the Attorney General’s Chambers had agreed to execute the application in line with the Extradition Act 1992 and the extradition treaty between the governments of both countries, he noted.

“On Sept 11, the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court issued a provisional warrant for the arrest of the two suspects.

“A 60-day remand period was granted under Section 16(1) of the Extradition Act 1992 and Article 11(4) of the Extradition Treaty.

“They have been remanded and placed in Sungai Buloh Prison,” he said.

Comm Huzir said both men were suspected to have operated an illegal business selling gaming artifacts.

“The forensic team has seized evidence and relevant documents from their company,” he added.

Earlier yesterday, SEA Gamer Mall maintained in a statement that it had not engaged in any illegal activities as two of its employees faced extradition proceedings over hacking charges by the United States.

“Without compromising the integrity of any ongoing legal process, suffice to say that the company has never engaged in any illegal activity, as we are a home-grown Malaysian company with hundreds of employees and millions of customers all around the world,” the company said.

This statement also did not name the employees.

SEA Gamer mall, founded in 2007, offers digital gaming items such as prepaid top-up cards and virtual goods.

The company claimed that all of its customers’ personal details remained “safe and secure”.

“The company is actively engaging with external professionals to enhance our system in order to ensure the utmost safety and security to protect all personal data and details of our customers,” it said.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged Wong Ong Hua, 46, and Ling Yang Ching, 32, with 23 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, identity theft, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, money laundering, violations of the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act), and falsely registering domain names.

Wong is the founder and CEO of SEA Gamer Mall while Ling is a partner and chief product officer, according to the company website.

“The indictment alleged that Wong and Ling conducted the affairs of SEA Gamer Mall through a pattern of racketeering activity involving computer intrusion offences targeting the video game industry in the United States, France, Japan, Singapore and South Korea,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Wong and Ling are alleged to have worked with five other Chinese nationals who are part of a hacking group known as APT41.

“First, as the core of APT41’s computer hacking, the Chinese defendants targeted well over 100 victims worldwide in a variety of industries and sectors that are, sadly, part of the standard target list for Chinese hackers,” said US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement.

“These criminal acts were turbo-charged by a sophisticated technique referred to as a ‘supply chain attack’, in which the Chinese hackers compromised software providers around the world, and modified the providers’ code to install backdoors that enabled further hacks against the software providers’ customers.

“Second, and as an additional method of making money, several of the Chinese defendants compromised the networks of video game companies worldwide (a billion-dollar industry) and defrauded them of in-game resources.

“Two of the Chinese defendants stand accused, with two Malaysian defendants, of selling those resources on the black market, through their illicit website.”

Wong and Ling were arrested in Sitiawan, Perak, where the company is based.

“The department appreciates the significant cooperation and assistance provided by the government of Malaysia, including the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Royal Malaysia Police,” the DOJ said.

According to the DOJ, one count of racketeering conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three counts of intentional damage to a protected computer carries a maximum 10 years in prison while three counts of money laundering carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

False registration of domain names could increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment for money laundering to 27 years, it added.

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