Good: US boasts it collared two in Chinese hacking bust. Bad: They aren't the actual hackers, rest are safe in China

Ugly: And it's all about video game robberies at this stage

Two people have been arrested in Malaysia as part of America's crackdown on the Chinese government's hackers.

The two men, both Malaysian nationals, are not accused of breaking into computer networks. Rather, it is claimed, they operated the storefronts where hacked goods were peddled. Specifically, it is alleged they ran websites that resold character equipment and in-game currency stolen by miscreants from online video game players.

Wong Ong Hua, 46, and Ling Yang Ching, 32, face 23 criminal counts in the US, including racketeering, conspiracy, identity theft, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, money laundering, violations of the computer fraud and abuse act, and falsely registering domain names.

Those two are likely going to be the only ones cuffed and sent to court to face a judge, at least for the foreseeable future. Five other people charged in connection with the above pair are all Chinese, and are living in China from which extradition to the States is rather unlikely.

"Today’s charges, the related arrests, seizures of malware and other infrastructure used to conduct intrusions, and coordinated private sector protective actions reveal yet again the department’s determination to use all of the tools at its disposal and to collaborate with the private sector and nations who support the rule of law in cyberspace," boasted assistant US Attorney General John Demers.

"This is the only way to neutralize malicious nation state cyber activity."

The five charged Chinese nationals – Zhang Haoran, 35, Tan Dailiin, 35, Jian Lizhi, 35, Qian Chuan, 39, and Fu Qiang, 37 – were members of two hacking efforts, it is claimed. Their activities are said to have been known under several names: APT-41, Winnti, Barium, Wicked Panda, and Wicked Spider.

During various operations, the crews would break into company networks and steal source code, drop ransomware, or install crypto-mining code, it is claimed. They were also tied to state-sponsored operations to do things like spy on pro-democracy politicians and activists, according to the Americans.

Illustration of a China backdoor

Chinese database details 2.4 million influential people, their kids, addresses, and how to press their buttons


Jian, Quan, and Fu are said to be in the employ of Chengdu 404, an organization in China that, sometimes with the help of others, attacked private enterprises and government operations, it is claimed. This included, we're told, breaking into networks to steal blueprints and deploy ransomware or crypto-miners, to targeting governments for surveillance (as you might have gathered, Chinese hacking operations have a lot of gray areas between private and public sector activity.)

Among the group's specialties were supply-chain attacks where software providers were targeted and then had their code modified to contain backdoors.

In the case of Zhang and Tan, prosecutors said the duo would break into the networks of game companies and then steal in-game currency or player items that were then resold – in many cases by the aforementioned Malaysian duo, it is claimed. They were not the only ones doing this, apparently: it is said that, in addition to other members of their crew, Zhang and Tan knew of rival hackers targeting the same games developers, and attempted to target their competitors as well.

Should any of the five be brought to the US, they will face charges including computer and wire fraud, unauthorized access to a protected computer, damaging a protected computer, identity theft, and money laundering. As we mentioned earlier, however, that's probably not going to happen.

"Ideally, I would be thanking Chinese law enforcement authorities for their cooperation in this matter and the five Chinese hackers would now be in custody awaiting trial," said US Attorney General Jeffry Rosen.

"Unfortunately, the record of recent years tells us that the Chinese Communist Party has a demonstrated history of choosing a different path, that of making China safe for their own cyber criminals, so long as they help with its goals of stealing intellectual property and stifling freedom." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Research finds consumer-grade IoT devices showing up... on corporate networks

    Considering the slack security of such kit, it's a perfect storm

    Increasing numbers of "non-business" Internet of Things devices are showing up inside corporate networks, Palo Alto Networks has warned, saying that smart lightbulbs and internet-connected pet feeders may not feature in organisations' threat models.

    According to Greg Day, VP and CSO EMEA of the US-based enterprise networking firm: "When you consider that the security controls in consumer IoT devices are minimal, so as not to increase the price, the lack of visibility coupled with increased remote working could lead to serious cybersecurity incidents."

    The company surveyed 1,900 IT decision-makers across 18 countries including the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, finding that just over three quarters (78 per cent) of them reported an increase in non-business IoT devices connected to their org's networks.

    Continue reading
  • Huawei appears to have quenched its thirst for power in favour of more efficient 5G

    Never mind the performance, man, think of the planet

    MBB Forum 2021 The "G" in 5G stands for Green, if the hours of keynotes at the Mobile Broadband Forum in Dubai are to be believed.

    Run by Huawei, the forum was a mixture of in-person event and talking heads over occasionally grainy video and kicked off with an admission by Ken Hu, rotating chairman of the Shenzhen-based electronics giant, that the adoption of 5G – with its promise of faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower latency – was still quite low for some applications.

    Despite the dream five years ago, that the tech would link up everything, "we have not connected all things," Hu said.

    Continue reading
  • What is self-learning AI and how does it tackle ransomware?

    Darktrace: Why you need defence that operates at machine speed

    Sponsored There used to be two certainties in life - death and taxes - but thanks to online crooks around the world, there's a third: ransomware. This attack mechanism continues to gain traction because of its phenomenal success. Despite admonishments from governments, victims continue to pay up using low-friction cryptocurrency channels, emboldening criminal groups even further.

    Darktrace, the AI-powered security company that went public this spring, aims to stop the spread of ransomware by preventing its customers from becoming victims at all. To do that, they need a defence mechanism that operates at machine speed, explains its director of threat hunting Max Heinemeyer.

    According to Darktrace's 2021 Ransomware Threat Report [PDF], ransomware attacks are on the rise. It warns that businesses will experience these attacks every 11 seconds in 2021, up from 40 seconds in 2016.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021