Singaporean deceived Amazon, Google for cloud services to mine cryptocurrency

SINGAPORE: A 32-year-old man who faces criminal charges in the United States on Monday (Mar 7) admitted in a Singapore court to impersonating two men to deceive Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google for cloud computing services that he used to mine cryptocurrency.

Singaporean Ho Jun Jia, also known as Matthew Ho, was charged with identity theft and wire fraud in the US in October 2019. He was unemployed when he committed the offenses.

One of his victims was Marc Merrill, the co-founder of video game developer Riot Games.

Ho used personal and credit card information obtained from a Dark Web forum to cheat AWS and Google into providing cloud computing services worth about US $ 5.2 million (S $ 7.1 million) and US $ 250,000 respectively.

Between Nov 21, 2017, and Mar 1, 2018, he used this computing power to mine about 1,468 units of the cryptocurrency Ether.

He sold about 203 units of the illegally acquired Ether, making more than S $ 347,000, which he spent on personal expenses.

Ho pleaded guilty on Monday to 11 charges, including offenses under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and cheating by personation. He is set to return to court next month for mitigation and sentencing.

IMPERSONATED VIDEO GAME DEVELOPER

The court heard that in 2017, Ho forged US driving licenses for others on a Darkweb forum that styled itself as “# 1 Community Fraud”.

In return for his services, Ho was given access to a “VIP” section of the forum that contained individuals’ names, addresses and credit card details.

Around Oct 19, 2017, he obtained the information of 70 individuals including Mr Merrill and another man named Harold Borland.

Using Mr Merrill’s personal information, Ho gained access to the developer’s AMEX bank account and changed the email address associated with the account to a new email address with a similar name.

On Nov 3, 2017, I registered a new user account with AWS using Merrill’s name, address, AMEX credit card number and the email address he created.

On at least 40 occasions between Nov 4, 2017, and Jan 28, 2018, while in Singapore, Ho deceived AWS into believing that he was Mr Merrill and delivering cloud computing services.

The AWS account linked to Mr Merrill was suspended on Jan 27, 2018, after several failed attempts by the company to contact Ho by email to pay the outstanding bill.

Around Nov 3, 2017, I used Mr Merrill’s details to register a new account on the Google Cloud Platform. On at least 38 occasions between Nov 4, 2017, and Feb 23, 2018, he deceived Google into providing cloud services while in Singapore.

As part of his deceptions of the two companies, Ho also used Photoshop to forge a driving license and AMEX credit card for Mr Merrill.

Google suspended the account on Feb 23, 2018, after informing Ho that they were unable to process payment.

Both AWS and Google refunded payments to AMEX after receiving chargeback requests from the bank and conducting internal investigations.

Ho also used Mr Merrill’s details to register an account with Namecheap, which provided domain-hosting and other services, ringing up a bill of about US $ 900 between October 2017 and August 2018.

He went on to run the same scheme with AWS using the details of another man, Harold Borland. Between Nov 19, 2017, and Apr 18, 2018, he deceived AWS into providing US $ 21 worth of cloud computing services.

On Sep 24, 2019, officers from the Technology Crime Investigation Branch raided Ho’s home and arrested him. He has not made any restitution or compensation to date.

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