Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cat and Mouse: Hacker taunts police with clue attached to cat

Japanese authorities recovered a memory card hidden on the collar of a cat on an island near Tokyo on January 5, the latest development in a wild goose chase orchestrated by a hacker thought to be responsible for a series of terrorist threats sent remotely from computers across the country last year.

The memory card contained information relating to the “iesys.exe” virus, dubbed the “Remote Control Virus”, which is capable of controlling an infected computer from a remote location. Also attached was a personal message from the hacker, in which he states he will no longer send threats using the virus.

RocketNews24 was on the scene when the memory card was found, which you can read about in our report here.

For the full story leading up to last week’s wild cat search, check below.

In September 2012, the Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) arrested four male suspects thought to be involved in a series of bomb and murder threats posted to popular Japanese discussion board 2channel in previous months.

However it later emerged that all four suspects were actually victims of the iesys.exe virus, their computers used to send the offending messages, and were released in October.

This incident highlighted the inability of the NPA to address cybercrimes and humiliated the police as the story was widely reported by the media — which is exactly what the real criminal wanted to accomplish.

“I wanted to set up the police. I wanted embarrass them in public”, wrote the criminal in an e-mail sent by proxy to a lawyer and radio station on October 9. “That’s why I was planning on sending this confession and freeing the people who were arrested when the timing was right.”

The next major twist came on November 11, when the following photo of a figurine of Madoka Kaname, the protagonist of the popular anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica, was sent to various Japanese media outlets.

The photo was attached to an email that read (via Yomiuri Shimbun): “Long time no see. I’m the real culprit. I made a mistake. It seems to be me who lost in this game.”

The email continues: ”Since I don’t want to be caught, I’ll hang myself. It was a fun game. So long. I’ll see you again in the afterlife”, alluding to the LAN cable noose tied around the figure.

Police were able to trace the email to an apartment complex in Yokohama, but once again were unable to uncover any significant leads.

In December 2012, frustrated by a lack of progress on the case, the NPA announced a 3 million yen (US $34,000) reward for the criminal’s capture — the first time a bounty has been offered for a cybercrime in Japan.

This latest development began to unfold on New Year’s Day, after media outlets once again received a cryptic e-mail from the culprit, this time containing “an invitation to a new game” in the form of five riddles that, if solved, would supposedly bring them to a ”big scoop”.

This led police to believe that information related to the iesys.exe virus was buried on Mount Kumotori, the highest peak in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, but they were unable to uncover anything in their investigation.

Finally, on January 5, an additional email was sent containing three new riddles, one of which included four pictures of a cat wearing a pink collar with a small memory card attached to it. While no information regarding the location of the cat was given in the email, Japanese internet users were able to identify that the photos were taken at Enoshima, a small island located about an hour from Tokyo.

This is where we come in.

After receiving a tip about the content of the latest email, we sent our reporter Kuzo to Enoshima in search of the cat on the morning of January 5. With the help of him and two other civilians, the police were able to locate the cat and retrieve the memory card before noon.

Authorities later revealed that the card contained information about the virus and how it was designed, along with a message from the culprit in which he alludes to his motive for putting the police through this game of cat and mouse, stating: “I was once involved in an incident and, even though I was innocent, I was forced to substantially alter the course of my life as a result.”

The culprit also stated that he used a program that protected his anonymity to send the virus and that he will no longer be sending out threats, saying: “You guys are the first to win at this game.”

Police are currently investigating footage from security cameras placed around the island and searching for witnesses who may have seen the culprit put the collar on the cat.

We’ll have more on the story as it develops.


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