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Singaporean Cryptocurrency Thief Racks Up $5 Million AWS, Google Cloud Bill

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A Singaporean has been indicted in the U.S. on charges of stealing cloud computing power on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google to mine cryptocurrency.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Washington, Ho Jun Jia used the stolen identity and credit card information of a video game developer based in California and a Texan resident to open cloud services accounts with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Services. Ho also impersonated the founder of a tech firm based in India.

A $5 million cloud computing bill in 5 months

The Singaporean perpetrated the scheme between October 2017 and February 2018. In the five-month period, Ho is estimated to have ran up a bill of over $5 million. Some of the expenses were charged to the credit cards of his victims before the fraud was discovered.

At one time, Ho’s cryptocurrency mining operation was the biggest consumer of computing power on AWS by volume.  This was on the account he had ostensibly opened using the game developer’s identity.

To avoid suspicion following the spike in usage, Ho also posed as a representative of the game developer to communicate with AWS in order to assuage concerns. Most of the phony email addresses that Ho created for his deception were Gmail accounts.

Besides mining cryptocurrencies, Ho also opened an Amazon retail account using the game developer’s identity. On this account he attempted to buy computing-related equipment using the game developer’s American Express credit card information.

Other than Google and AWS, Ho used the stolen identity to sign up with London-based crypto mining firm CCG Mining.

Crypto mining done mostly at game developer’s expense

Though three victims have so far been identified, the California-based game developer was the hardest hit. Per the indictment, the game developer’s credit card was charged approximately $240,000 for Ho’s use of Google Cloud Services.  Additionally, there was also a charge of $135,861.12 to the game developer’s credit card for the use of AWS services.

After mining the cryptocurrencies, Ho sold them for fiat currencies on peer-to-peer crypto exchanges. This included LocalBitcoins and LocalEthereum where he went by such monikers as ‘Ethereum Vendor’ and ‘Prefinity’.

Additionally, Ho also sought buyers of cryptocurrencies on social media platforms:

Ho also used social media, such as Facebook, to solicit interest in cryptocurrency and to advertise the fluctuations in price and exploit the growing attention to and popularity of cryptocurrency and virtual currency markets.

The Singaporean now faces eight counts of wire fraud, four counts of access device fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Ho is currently in the custody of the Singapore Police Force after he was arrested late last month.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.