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U.S., allies arrest Chinese national behind global 911 S5 botnet

By Ehren Wynder
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the global 911 S5 botnet facilitated "cyber-attacks, large-scale fraud, child exploitation, harassment, bomb threats, and export violations.” File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the global 911 S5 botnet facilitated "cyber-attacks, large-scale fraud, child exploitation, harassment, bomb threats, and export violations.” File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 29 (UPI) -- An international law enforcement operation disrupted the massive 911 S5 botnet and led to the arrest one of its leaders, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Chinese national YunHe Wang, 35, was arrested in Singapore on charges related to the creation and operation of the global 911 S5 botnet, the Justice Department said in a release.

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Wang is charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, substantive computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted.

Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement said the 911 S5 botnet facilitated "cyber-attacks, large-scale fraud, child exploitation, harassment, bomb threats, and export violations."

In the United States, fraudsters using compromised IP addresses submitted an estimated 560,000 unemployment insurance claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a loss of over $5.9 billion.

"This case makes clear that the long arm of the law stretches across borders and into the deepest shadows of the dark web, and the Justice Department will never stop fighting to hold cybercriminals to account," Garland said.

According to an indictment, Wang and his accomplices allegedly created and spread malware to compromise millions of personal computers worldwide.

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The devices were associated with more than 19 million unique IP addresses, including 613,841 in the United States. The conspirators were able to generate millions of dollars by offering cybercriminals access to the infected IP addresses for a fee, according to the Justice Department.

Cybercriminals then used the proxied IP addresses to anonymously commit a wide range of offenses.

Matthew Axelrod, a senior U.S. Commerce Department official involved in the investigation, said in a statement per CNN that the alleged crime and the lavish lifestyle it funded "reads like it's ripped from a screenplay."

According to the indictment, Wang allegedly raked in $99 million from the sales of hijacked IP addresses from 2018 until July 2022.

He then used his ill-gotten gains to purchase real property in the United States, St. Kitts and Nevis, China, Singapore, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

The FBI, along with law enforcement officials in Singapore, Thailand and Germany, seized $30 million in real estate properties and about $4 million worth of luxury cars, watches and other high-end assets.

The Biden administration on Tuesday sanctioned Wang, Jingping Liu and Yanni Zheng for their involvement with 911 S5.

The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets held in their names and bar any U.S. citizens from doing business with them.

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Liu and Zheng are accused of laundering proceeds from the botnet. Zheng also is Wang's attorney and is accused of participating in numerous business transactions on his behalf in Thailand.

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