Ex-Amazon cyber security engineer charged for $9 million crypto fraud

He was alleged to have utilized his specialized skills in reverse engineering smart contracts and conducting blockchain audits to execute a fraudulent scheme
Ex-Amazon security engineer in a $9 million cyber attack.png

A former senior security engineer at Amazon is facing charges of wire fraud and money laundering for orchestrating an attack on a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange on the 2nd of July 2022. Shakeeb Ahmed, utilizing his expertise, allegedly defrauded the exchange and its users, resulting in the theft of approximately $9 million worth of cryptocurrency.

Each charge Shakeeb Ahmed faces carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison, potentially resulting in decades behind bars if convicted. After the fraudulent activity, Ahmed allegedly attempted to launder the stolen funds through a series of intricate transfers on the blockchain. This involved swapping cryptocurrencies, traversing various crypto blockchains and utilizing overseas crypto exchanges.

Speaking on the matter, IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher said:

As alleged, Mr. Ahmed used his skills as a computer security engineer to steal millions of dollars.  He then allegedly tried to hide the stolen funds, but his skills were no match for IRS Criminal Investigation’s Cyber Crimes Unit.  We, along with our partners at HSI and the Department of Justice, are at the forefront of cyber investigations and will track these fraudsters anywhere they try to hide and hold them accountable.

While officials described Shakeeb Ahmed as a “former security engineer” for an undisclosed international technology company, recent reports indicate that Shakeeb Ahmed had worked for Amazon. Several online profiles, including a LinkedIn profile matching Ahmed’s description, list him as a “Senior Security Engineer” at Amazon, stating his employment with the company since November 2020. However, the profile’s connection to the arrested individual couldn’t be immediately verified.

A media outlet mentioned that it reached out to Amazon for clarification on Ahmed’s employment, and a spokesperson confirmed that Ahmed was no longer employed with the company. However, further details regarding his role at the tech giant were not provided.

This recent incident highlights the severity of the charges brought against the former senior security engineer and the potential consequences he may face for his alleged actions. The case serves as a reminder of the importance of robust security measures within the cryptocurrency industry and the need for constant vigilance against fraudulent activities.

Read Also: Ex-manager who defrauded Amazon of nearly $10m, jailed for 16 years

How did Shakeeb Ahmed do it?

Ex-Amazon senior security engineer faces charges after a $9 million crypto attack

Shakeeb Ahmed, a senior security engineer for an international technology company at the time of the attack, is alleged to have utilized his specialized skills in reverse engineering smart contracts and conducting blockchain audits to execute a fraudulent scheme.

Exploiting a vulnerability in one of the Crypto Exchange’s smart contracts, Ahmed created two non-tick accounts designed to mimic legitimate tick accounts on the platform. By manipulating the smart contract, he fraudulently caused it to generate approximately $9 million worth of inflated fees.

Shakeeb Ahmed further used one of the fake tick accounts to generate millions of dollars in inflated fees, including flash loans, based on the fake pricing data he supplied. Additionally, he utilized the other fake tick account to withdraw millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency. This deceitful conduct defrauded both the Crypto Exchange and its users, from whom Ahmed illicitly obtained the stolen cryptocurrency.

Following the theft, Shakeeb Ahmed engaged in communications with the Crypto Exchange, proposing to return all of the stolen funds, except for $1.5 million, on the condition that the Crypto Exchange refrained from reporting the attack to law enforcement.

Ahmed’s online activities following the attack demonstrated efforts to gather information, assess his legal position, explore means of evading criminal charges, preserve the stolen cryptocurrency, and flee the United States.

For instance, within approximately two days after the attack, Ahmed searched for the term “defi hack,” read numerous news articles about the Crypto Exchange hack, and visited several pages on the Crypto Exchange’s website. Additionally, Ahmed conducted internet searches and visited websites related to the charges mentioned in the indictment, including terms like “wire fraud” and “evidence laundering.”

Furthermore, Shakeeb Ahmed explored information on evading extradition and safeguarding his stolen cryptocurrency, conducting searches such as “Can I cross the border with crypto,” “How to prevent the federal government from seizing assets,” and “buying citizenship.” Notably, he visited a website titled “16 Countries Where Your Investments Can Buy Citizenship…”

What is going on now for the Ex-Amazon senior security engineer?

Shakeeb Ahmed, who appeared in court for his arraignment, wore a flip-flop, shorts, and a T-shirt with the phrase “I code” written on it, as tweeted by Inner City Press. He has since been released on bond.

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