The Supreme Court of NSW has ordered a Sydney-based hacker to forfeit close to $1.7 million cryptocurrency and cash to the federal government following an investigation involving Australian and US law enforcement officials.
The Sydney man, a convicted hacker, was handed a two year and two months’ sentence in April this year, to be served by an intensive corrections order.
The case alleged the local man conspired with another man in the United States to steal the logins and passwords of streaming service customers, selling them online at a cheaper rate.
After the individual pleaded guilty to various criminal offences in October 2020, the Australian Federal Police (AFP)-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) obtained restraining orders over cryptocurrency, bank and PayPal accounts held in false names, which were suspected to be controlled by the man.
The investigation resulting in the legal proceedings against the man began after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) referred information in 2018 to the AFP about an account generator website called WickedGen.com.
AFP cyber crime investigators subsequently executed a warrant at the Sydney man’s home, where they seized cryptocurrency and various evidence.
The AFP claimed WickedGen operated for about two years, selling stolen account details for online subscription services, including Netflix, Spotify and Hulu.
The account details belonged to unknowing victims in Australia and internationally, including the US, the AFP said.
During the investigation, the AFP further identified the Sydney offender to be the creator, administrator and primary financial beneficiary of a further three 'account generator' websites: HyperGen; Autoflix; and AccountBot.
Across the four subscription services, according to the AFP, the man had at least 152,863 registered users and provided at least 85,925 subscriptions to illegally access legitimate streaming services.
It is understood the individual received more than $680,000 through PayPal by selling subscriptions through these sites, converting some of these proceeds into various cryptocurrencies.
An FBI indictment alleged that between February 2018 and March 2019, the Sydney man and his US counterpart conspired to create and operate an online service called AccountBot.
It is alleged AccountBot offered a paid subscription service to customers who could obtain account credentials to streaming services at a cheaper rate.
The Sydney man claimed he had obtained a financial benefit of $500,000 to $1 million from operating the websites, according to the AFP.
Last week, the Supreme Court of NSW ordered the forfeiture of $1.66 million by the man to the Commonwealth Confiscated Assets Account.
The amount of cryptocurrency forfeited, more than $1.2 million, is the largest Commonwealth forfeiture of cryptocurrency, the AFP claimed.
It is understood that the funds will be redistributed by the federal Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, to support crime prevention, law enforcement and community-safety related initiatives.
In February, it was revealed that an unrelated operation by the AFP had led to the arrest of the alleged developer of a phishing package and administrative panel thought to be involved in roughly 50 per cent of all phishing scams in Australia in 2019.
That arrest came just weeks after the AFP seized a trove of digital devices following a series of search warrants in Queensland relating to the shutdown of DarkMarket, claimed to be the world’s largest illegal marketplace on the dark web.