Perak-based SEA Gamer Mall's top personnel facing extradition after US Department of Justice indictment

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Perak-based SEA Gamer Mall said it’s looking at the indictment papers issued by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) which has charged its staff, Wong Ong Hua and Ling Yang Ching, for involvement in an international hacking group.

“All I can say is that we are looking at the indictment papers. Our lawyers are working on it. Have no other comments,” SEA Gamer Mall chief operating officer Tommy Chieng said when contacted over WhatsApp.

The US DoJ report stated that Wong and Ling were arrested on Sept 14 through cooperation with local enforcement authorities and are now facing extradition proceedings.

In a second indictment in August, the DoJ charged Wong, 46, and Ling, 32 with 23 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, identity theft, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, money laundering, violations of the CFAA (computer fraud and abuse act), and falsely registering domain names.

Wong is the founder and chief executive office of SEA Gamer Mall, which is based in Sitiawan, Perak, while Ling is listed as a partner and chief product officer, according to the company website.

“First, as the core of APT-41’s computer hacking, the Chinese defendants targeted well over 100 victims worldwide in a variety of industries and sectors that are, sadly, part of the standard target list for Chinese hackers,” said US Deputy Attorney-General Jeffrey Rosen in a statement.

“These criminal acts were turbo-charged by a sophisticated technique referred to as a ‘supply chain attack’, in which the Chinese hackers compromised software providers around the world, and modified the providers’ code to install backdoors that enabled further hacks against the software providers’ customers.

“Second, and as an additional method of making money, several of the Chinese defendants compromised the networks of video game companies worldwide (a billion-dollar industry) and defrauded them of in-game resources.

“Two of the Chinese defendants stand accused, with two Malaysian defendants, of selling those resources on the black market, through their illicit website.”

At this point it’s unclear what are the in-game resources, as it could be in-game currency for purchasing virtual goods like clothes or even art assets of a video game.

Gaming analytics company Newzoo reported that 20.1 million gamers in Malaysia spent US$673 million (S$916.75 million) on games in 2019, making it one of the biggest gaming markets in South-east Asia.

It stated that the majority of gamers spent money on in-game items or virtual goods with the most common being power-ups or additional abilities for a game avatar.

SEA Gamer Mall was established in 2007 with offices in China, Thailand and Indonesia.

On its website, the company claimed that it has 1.9 million registered users and, in a 2017 news article, Wong was quoted as saying most of the website’s sales came from prepaid top-up cards and online game virtual items.

The company netted RM386 million (S$126.81 million) in revenue in 2019 and is projected to hit RM500 million this year as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to more people playing games and purchasing in-game items, Chieng said in a LifestyleTech report.

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