If you ask Yuki why he helped start a Telegram channel to facilitate settling scores in the mobile phone hacking community, he will answer that it was about supply and demand. Many young SIM card lovers have been looking for a way to take revenge on their enemies in the real world.
Replacing a SIM card at the most basic level entails stealing your mobile phone. They exchange your SIM card and all the information on it for their own SIM card – and in the same way they have access to your passwords, your email and two-factor authentication codes that protect bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets. SIM changers are leaking these accounts and stealing millions.
Big money has spawned something even more troubling – a new phenomenon known as violence as a service. This has become an accepted way of settling scores in the SIM swap community. They told us that doxing or defacing websites simply doesn’t convey enough of the message. So instead they throw Molotov cocktails or cut tires in the real world.
Detective David Hale of the Westtown East Goshen Police Department was investigating an apparent violent-as-a-service incident in January in West Chester, Pennsylvania, when someone opened fire on a house. No harm done. According to the criminal case, first published by Krebs on Security, 21-year-old Patrick McGovern-Allen, who traded SIM cards, was allegedly involved.
Violence as a service is the next iteration of what became a popular method of harassment among teenagers a decade ago: spanking. Small children will call emergency services and get the police to send SWAT to someone’s house, and it killed people.
The concern is that abusing the service will do the same. “I think it’s fair to say that this is a problem and it won’t go away anytime soon,” Detective Hale told Click Here.
To try and better understand this phenomenon, we spoke with Yuki, a SIM swap specialist who created a Telegram channel to try and facilitate this SIM swap in the face of real-world violence. His group called BRICKSQUAD launched in August, offering something like match.com for violence.
One ad asks if anyone can be in Sydney’s Hyde Park: “Anyone who can be here on September 8th around noon and wants to earn a thousand dollars … write to me.” Another, in Houston, Florida: “I want to brick my window for $500… let me know.”
The Click Here podcast interviewed Yuki and a number of other SIM swap participants recorded for this week’s episode. We verified Yuki’s identity in many ways. He is listed as the owner of the BRICKSQUAD encrypted Telegram channel, and his voice is heard on the video about the violence for the favor, and he matches the voice of Yuki, whom we interviewed.
We spoke with him about the world of SIM swapping, why violence as a service is becoming more popular, and how violence in the SIM swapping community will eventually spread around the world. When we asked if they had any remorse for such abuse, they replied, “No, it’s just business.” If you steal money, there will be consequences.” The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Click here: Can you explain how SIM replacement works?
Yuki: Now the first thing you’ll probably want to do is go to whatever carrier they use and try social engineering to drop the email, connect to their ISP and log in to the email, find everything you can find .
And then you need to make sure you have operator tools like manager login so they can do the activation. In fact, it’s like the work of three. You will have a guy who does social engineering, someone who holds the SIM card in the phone, and then a guy who actually does the activation. Then, once you get your phone number, you can access all cryptocurrency wallets like Coinbase, Binances, etc.
You would never trade a SIM card with someone without money. You must first check the Coinbase link to email or Binance. Sometimes this happens and you end up with a zero balance.
CH: Are the recipients of the SIM usually those who have bitcoin, ethereum, or some kind of cryptocurrency?
D: Yes. This is what you are really going after. This is not so much their information as their cryptocurrency.
CH: And now a lot of these SIM card exchangers are hunting each other. Is “real life” violence a relatively new thing in SIM swapping?
D: Yes, people have only been doing this since last year and no one has really made a business out of it like a real business. They just do it like a chore.
CH: And you feel remorse for all this?
D: In many ways, it’s a business. If you are a scammer, there is a good chance that hammers will be thrown at your house, or perhaps your house will be shot down. If you want to steal someone’s money, it will have many consequences. If you want to deceive someone for a thousand dollars, then the person you are deceiving can spend a thousand dollars to have a brick thrown at your house. It’s all business.
CH: Who pays you for this and who do you target?
D: They all seem to be the same people, they all exchange SIM cards, like-minded people. They pay us for it and they are also targets.
CH: Is it correct to consider the SIM exchange community to be younger?
D: It’s very accurate. Many SIM swap devices are actually 13 by 18.
CH: So most of this violence is against teenagers?
D: Yes, to a large extent.
CH: And a few months ago you co-founded a Telegram channel that promotes these violence services in real life. Talk to me about Bricksquad.
D: I started this as a side project and it’s more like a supply on demand. Do you know how people [in the SIM swapping community] really want to take revenge on their enemies on the Internet. BRICKSQUAD is at the forefront. This is where most major crimes take place.
CH: Give me some examples of violence as a service that BRICKSQUAD provides.
Yuki: You can order someone to be bricked, which means throwing a brick across their house. We also get people offering to throw a Molotov cocktail into the house. It’s pretty simple, but people do it and they get paid.
CH: And how much does something like that cost?
D: People pay about $1,000 for brickwork. Typically, the starting price for shelling a house is $5,000. If you want someone to actually get killed or kidnapped, that goes a lot further.
CH: And do you or your team do the actual laying, or do you just say, “Hey, we’ve got a job” and act as an intermediary?
D: No, we do both. Sometimes we proxy people which means you can get other people to do it and you get paid for it. Or you can just do it yourself if you are in the area. The squad deals with more serious cases, such as gunfights, robberies, and even murders.
CH: Can you give an example of a recent brick?
D: Yes, the last person I walled up was a few days ago. They lied about having T-Mobile tools and tried to charge me a thousand dollars for activation. So I actually went to one of their ex-girlfriends and asked if you have any information on this guy? She gave me all his information, so they walled her up.
CH: Did you film it?
D: No comment. (pause) Okay. I didn’t do it. So, I didn’t film it, but someone was walled up, and it’s because of me.
CH: Was there a video?
D: Is there a video.
CH: When people order these services, do they tell you the reason or don’t ask questions?
D: You usually already know what the reason is because the SIM swap community already talks about it. But there are times when you get a random person who just wants someone to be walled up and then it doesn’t ask questions. I will do it.
CH: And do you guys ever get out of this community like bricking up someone who doesn’t swap SIM cards or isn’t in the online community?
D: This is definitely extending to other communities, as many regular Discord communities have heard of people getting bricked and Molotov cocktails thrown, but no one really knows who is doing it.
We have also walled up some company employees for intimidation tactics.
CH: How’s the phone company?
D: Yes, the telephone company.
CH: So, someone who is on the fringes of the community but not directly involved?
D: Yes exactly.
CH: What do you do to keep yourself out of trouble?
D: Well, for one thing, you don’t reveal a lot of your information, like where you live. This can lead to people reporting you to the police. Second step: Always use security, such as a VPN or even a residential proxy. The third step is you should always be sure not to give out your phone number or anything like that.
In the SIM swap community, after a phone number is leaked, people will change the SIM just for fun because they have the tools.
I’ll tell you, I don’t really have a phone.
CH: Is it because you know how easy it is to change the SIM card?
D: No comment.
CH: So, recently a SIM card exchanger named Patrick McGovern-Allen was arrested for taking part in a couple of operations “violence as a service”. He used the online alias “Language”. Have you considered shutting down Bricksquad due to the heightened focus on Patrick’s arrest?
D: I did, but instead we just launched a website for our services. I realized that there was nothing to worry about. You can be reckless and safe at the same time. So I just thought about it and, you know, I figured I’d keep it up.
CH: Do you have a plan for when you don’t do it anymore, is there a certain amount of money you get for it?
D: I’m thinking about $100 million and I have a long way to go. It’s at least a few more years.
CH: Do you think that violence as a service is a short-lived thing?
D: I think it will grow even more. I think that many of them will grow beyond the community into more political employees, government officials. In the end, it will definitely go for it. A lot of people now have connections with government officials in the SIM swap community who get all their information and then blackmail them into getting authentication codes, logins, and more.
Sometimes they can’t change the SIM card. So they go to extreme measures that extort them. And if they can’t handle it, then I think they’ll shoot down the house.
CH: have you actually seen it happen or do you think it’s just a trend?
D: This is just my prediction, you know?