Chinese man arrested for allegedly running ‘largest ever’ malware network

US officials say army of 19 million infected computers enabled fraud, identity theft and child exploitation.

US officials have accused a Chinese national of running what has been described as 'likely the world’s largest botnet ever' [Al Drago/Reuters]

Authorities in the United States have announced the dismantling of a global network of 19 million infected computers used to facilitate and cover up cybercrimes including fraud, identity theft and child exploitation.

Yunhe Wang, 35, was arrested on Friday for allegedly running the botnet known as “911 S5”, the US Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

Wang is alleged to have run the botnet comprising infected IP addresses in more than 190 countries over an eight-year period from 2014, generating millions of dollars offering cybercriminals access to the network for a fee.

Wang is alleged to have generated $99m through the scheme, using his illicit gains to buy luxury cars and real estate in the US, St Kitts and Nevis, China, Singapore, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Wang allegedly propagated his malware through Virtual Private Network (VPN) programs, such as MaskVPN and DewVPN, and pay-per-install services that bundled his malware with other program files, including pirated versions of licensed software, according to court documents.

Department of Justice officials said they seized assets valued at approximately $30m, and identified additional forfeitable property worth approximately $30m, as part of the operation, which was carried out in coordination with law enforcement in Singapore, Thailand and Germany.

“This Justice Department-led operation brought together law enforcement partners from around the globe to disrupt 911 S5, a botnet that facilitated cyber-attacks, large-scale fraud, child exploitation, harassment, bomb threats and export violations,” Attorney General Merrick B Garland said in a statement.

“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 added.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the dismantled network was “likely the world’s largest botnet ever”.

“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to working shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to protect American businesses and the American people, and we will work tirelessly to unmask and arrest the cybercriminals who profit from this illegal activity,” Wray said in a statement.

Wang faces charges of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, substantive computer fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum penalty of 65 years in prison

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies