COURT DOC: 911 S5 Botnet Dismantled and Its Administrator Arrested in Coordinated International Operation

Botnet infected over 19M IP addresses to enable billions of dollars in pandemic and unemployment fraud, and access to child exploitation materials.

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May 30, 2024

“A court-authorized international law enforcement operation led by the U.S. Justice Department disrupted a botnet used to commit cyber attacks, large-scale fraud, child exploitation, harassment, bomb threats, and export violations.”

“As part of this operation, YunHe Wang, 35, a People’s Republic of China national and St. Kitts and Nevis citizen-by-investment, was arrested on May 24 on criminal charges arising from his deployment of malware and the creation and operation of a residential proxy service known as ‘911 S5.’”

“According to an indictment unsealed on May 24, from 2014 through July 2022, Wang and others are alleged to have created and disseminated malware to compromise and amass a network of millions of residential Windows computers worldwide. These devices were associated with more than 19 million unique IP addresses, including 613,841 IP addresses located in the United States. Wang then generated millions of dollars by offering cybercriminals access to these infected IP addresses for a fee.”

“According to court documents, Wang allegedly propagated his malware through Virtual Private Network (VPN) programs, such as MaskVPN and DewVPN (torrent distribution models that he operated) and pay-per-install services that bundled his malware with other program files, including pirated versions of licensed software or copyrighted materials. Wang then managed and controlled approximately 150 dedicated servers worldwide, approximately 76 of which he leased from U.S. based online service providers. Using the dedicated servers, Wang deployed and managed applications, commanded and controlled the infected devices, operated his 911 S5 service, and provided paying customers with access to proxied IP addresses associated with the infected devices.”

“Cybercriminals then used proxied IP addresses purchased from 911 S5 to conceal their true originating IP addresses and locations, and anonymously commit a wide array of offenses. These offenses including financial crimes, stalking, transmitting bomb threats and threats of harm, illegal exportation of goods, and receiving and sending child exploitation materials. Since 2014, 911 S5 allegedly enabled cybercriminals to bypass financial fraud detection systems and steal billions of dollars from financial institutions, credit card issuers, and federal lending programs.”

“911 S5 customers allegedly targeted certain pandemic relief programs. For example, the United States estimates that 560,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims originated from compromised IP addresses, resulting in a confirmed fraudulent loss exceeding $5.9 billion. Additionally, in evaluating suspected fraud loss to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, the United States estimates that more than 47,000 EIDL applications originated from IP addresses compromised by 911 S5. Millions of dollars more were similarly identified by financial institutions in the United States as loss originating from IP addresses compromised by 911 S5.”

“The 911 S5 client interface software, which was hosted on U.S.-based servers, enabled cybercriminals located outside of the United States to purchase goods with stolen credit cards or criminally derived proceeds, and illegally export them outside of the United States contrary to U.S. export laws, such as the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The 911 S5 client interface may also contain encryption or other features which subject it to export controls detailed in the EAR. Accordingly, downloads of the 911 S5 client interface software by certain foreign nationals without a license may constitute violations of the EAR.”

“The indictment further alleges that from 2018 until July 2022, Wang received approximately $99 million from his sales of the hijacked proxied IP addresses through his 911 S5 operation, either in cryptocurrency or fiat currency. Wang used the illicitly gained proceeds to purchase real property in the United States, St. Kitts and Nevis, China, Singapore, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates. The indictment identifies dozens of assets and properties subject to forfeiture, including a 2022 Ferrari F8 Spider S-A, a BMW i8, a BMW X7 M50d, a Rolls Royce, more than a dozen domestic and international bank accounts, over two dozen cryptocurrency wallets, several luxury wristwatches, 21 residential or investment properties (across Thailand, Singapore, the U.A.E., St. Kitts and Nevis, and the United States), and 20 domains.”

“Law enforcement initially focused on 911 S5 during an investigation of a money laundering and smuggling scheme, where criminal actors in Ghana and the United States used hijacked IP addresses purchased from 911 S5 to place fraudulent orders using stolen credit cards on the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) online e-commerce platform known as ShopMyExchange. Although approximately 2,525 fraudulent orders valued at $5.5 million were submitted, credit card fraud detection systems and federal investigators were able to thwart the bulk of the attempted purchases, reducing the actual loss to approximately $254,000.”

“Wang is charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, substantive computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted on all counts, Wang faces a maximum penalty of 65 years in prison.”

“This operation was a coordinated multiagency effort led by law enforcement in the United States, Singapore, Thailand, and Germany. Agents and officers searched residences, seized assets valued at approximately $30 million, and identified additional forfeitable property valued at approximately $30 million. The operation also seized 23 domains and over 70 servers constituting the backbone of Wang’s prior residential proxy service and the recent incarnation of the service. By seizing multiple domains tied to the historical 911 S5, as well as several new domains and services directly linked to an effort to reconstitute the service, the government has successfully terminated Wang’s efforts to further victimize individuals through his newly formed service and closed the existing malicious backdoors.” (Source: US Department of Justice)

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