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Chinese gangs in Cambodia behind worldwide cybercrimes | #cybercrime | #computerhacker


Cambodia has emerged as the latest cybercrime hub in Asia amidst the booming cyber trafficking industry. Online scams have seen a significant surge worldwide in recent times, with a notable portion originating from this Southeast Asian nation located in India’s extended vicinity, according to persons familiar with the region’s dynamics.

Due to its ongoing political instability, Cambodia has become a sanctuary for numerous small and medium-sized criminal groups. Many of these groups are either operated directly from China or are managed by Chinese citizens living in Cambodia, as stated by one of the sources mentioned earlier.

According to individuals familiar with their modus operandi, Chinese-run groups conduct their activities with the assistance of local influencers, and in some instances, they receive support from local Chinese provincial governments and politicians. These groups are engaged in a range of criminal activities, including arms smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, and cybercrimes.

Some of these groups operate like corporate entities, enticing thousands of individuals from countries like India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and neighbouring nations with promises of lucrative salaries and improved job prospects.

After recruits join, these groups provide them training like any other regular business process outsourcing agent and then collect their passports. Subsequently, these individuals are usually taken to southern Cambodia, from where they are either forced to work for online scams or sold as “slave employees” to other such groups.

Recently, a considerable number of Indians have been rescued from such situations, prompting the government to issue advisories cautioning against applying for such jobs. In March, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that approximately 250 Indians had been rescued from Cambodia after being coerced into participating in cyber scams.

In other scenarios, victims are promised employment opportunities in Bangkok and various locations in Thailand. Upon arrival, they are transported by road to Cambodia, where they are coerced into fraudulent activities. These victims endure inhumane working conditions, and in numerous instances, succumb to the relentless pressure exerted by these groups, resulting in loss of life.

According to a report by the US State Department, over 10,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds worldwide have been coerced into working as fraudulent agents by these Chinese gangs operating in Cambodia. These victims were compelled not only to engage in fraudulent activities against individuals or organisations but also to carry out cyberattacks on governmental and non-governmental entities abroad, as stated by the aforementioned sources.

In September 2022, Chum Sounry, spokesperson of the Cambodian foreign affairs ministry, accepted that Cambodia had received requests for intervention from at least nine countries on the issue of forced labour – Thailand, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia and Malaysia.

In 2018, Cambodian police arrested more than 200 Chinese citizens from Takeo province for cybercrimes. In 2022, Cambodia’s interior ministry said it had freed about 900 individuals in 2022 alone from traffickers.

In October 2023, over 20 organizations associated with the Cambodian government fell victim to cyberattacks perpetrated by several Chinese hacking groups. These groups managed to breach even data concerning Cambodia’s national defence.

Similar cases have surfaced in Myanmar as well, where Chinese groups in the northern part of the country lured hundreds of individuals and forced them to defraud people.

Experts have pointed fingers at the current regime in Cambodia, accusing it of permitting Chinese gangs to operate with impunity within the country. Many of these groups are purportedly discovered to be operating from residences belonging to nephews, relatives, and associates of the current Prime Minister.

Under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Cambodia has received financial benefits, but in return has provided a breeding ground for a cyber fraud industry and an illicit gambling industry. Since the influx of Chinese investors and financial assistance, numerous such industries have proliferated in Cambodia, according to insiders.

Analysts fear that Cambodia has allowed these cyber groups to operate inside its territory following the directions received from China. The Chinese Communist Party owns a number of such groups across the Indo-Chinese peninsula.

These Chinese groups allegedly launch cyberattacks on government departments in countries such as the US, UK, Australia, India, South Korea and Japan.

Although Cambodia has been pinpointed as the source of these crimes, the masterminds continue to evade capture. In 2022, the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report further downgraded Cambodia to a tier-3 country. According to an expert on China-Southeast Asia relations, Phnom Penh has fallen victim to China’s “debt trap,” and without international support, it will remain under China’s influence.

 

Image source: Epardafas

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