14 February 2013, 20:16

Hacker foiled by cat

Hacker foiled by cat
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Today we’re going international. First up, the story which I just couldn’t pass on. Remember I mentioned, how internet is for cats? It really is. Anyway, this time a cat helped law enforcements catch a cybercriminal! It’s a real gripping tale of crime, misdirection, games and, yes cats. Here’s the deal.

Today we’re going international. First up, the story which I just couldn’t pass on. Remember I mentioned, how internet is for cats? It really is. Anyway, this time a cat helped law enforcements catch a cybercriminal! It’s a real gripping tale of crime, misdirection, games and, yes cats. Here’s the deal. A Japanese hacker Yusuke Katayama was apprehended by Japanese authorities February 9th and is now charged with illegal access to computers and threats. Back in July of 2012 various Japanese organizations started receiving anonymous messages containing serious threats. Organizers of a comic book festival were threatened with a massacre; head office of Nintendo corporation and Ise Grand Shrine, a major shrine complex, received bomb threats; schools and kindergartens attended by grandchildren of Japanese Emperor Akihito also were threatened with attacks. Over a span of three months a total of 13 different establishments received such messages. A total of four arrests have been made in connection with these threats – the police have apprehended owners of four computers which were used to send out the messages. I wouldn’t say they did a very good job, though. Sure, they tracked down the computers, but they didn’t really thoroughly check them. The fact that these four people had no apparent connections with each other probably should’ve raised some flags, too. In any case, eventually they did decide to get to the bottom of things by analyzing the ‘instruments of crime’ – after finding malware which allowed to use these machines remotely, the police had to apologize to the prisoners and let them go. Oh, it should be noted that before that, they managed to ‘extract confessions’ from the accused – yep, these four innocent victims of malicious software were forced into confessions – don’t know what methods were used and not sure if I even want to find out.

Turns out that the victim’s computers were infected with the "Remote Control Virus" (with the process name iesys.exe) which managed to spread throughout the country. After inability to catch the man being it, the National Police Agency, basically, the Japanese FBI, offered a bounty for the criminal ¥3 million – about $32,000. This was, by the way, the first ever bounty posted by the agency. If you think that the hacker decided to lay low after that, you’re wrong. On the contrary, he started playing with the police and mass media, sending emails, taunting law enforcement’s technological illiteracy and generally fooling around, wallowing in own impunity. Early January, several employees of media and legal companies have received another email, sent from one of the addresses previously used for threats. The author offered them to play a game – wow, that’ really something from a movie. Indeed, just like in crime movies or TV shows (Sherlock, anyone?), the culprit offered to solve a series of riddles – thankfully, there were no lives at stake. I couldn’t find information about all of the puzzles, but at least one involved a computer which was used to control the victim’s machines, which was hidden somewhere in the Japanese subway system. The most publicized riddle was the last one, though. And that’s where the cat comes in. The puzzle which was solved by the authorities showed an image of a cat and a message, according to which there was memory device on its collar. The cat was eventually found in Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture. Apart from information on the virus, there was a manifesto on the card. According to Japan Times, this is the English translation: “Because I was embroiled in a criminal case before, despite my innocence, I was forced to make major changes to my life.” While I couldn’t find and explanation of how they found the cat, I assume they’ve analyzed footage of security cameras – because that’s how they caught the guy behind orchestrated all this. The authorities caught glimpse of Yusuke Katayama from security footage of him videotaping and approaching a cat in order to attach an object to its collar. No, quality of Japanese security cameras is not that awesome - it’s not like something from CSI and you can’t ‘enhance’ the image. Thankfully, this guy they sat on a motorcycle and drove off – the license plate was quite readable and it was this detail which guaranteed the hacker’s capture. Wow, the guy has been so careful for half a year and such a blatant slip-up ruined all his plans – although I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually wanted to get caught.

 

After they’re apprehended Katayama, they’ve found traces of deleted materials related to the ‘game’ and now his three computers have been seized in order to scan for evidence that he programmed the Remote Control Virus and sent the threats himself. Meanwhile, Japan Times checked up on the claims that he was harassed by the police in the past. Apparently, he was tried in 2005 on suspicion of using hijacked computers to threaten murder – sounds similar, right? Katayama described himself as an outcast: “I thought I don’t belong to society and I wanted to see how people would react (to such a person). That was the reason (for committing the crime).” For now, nothing is set in stone and some experts believe the capture may, in fact, be part of Katayama’s scheme. If computer forensics yield no results, the hacker, who works, surprise, surprise, for an IT company, may walk free.

Remember I talked how Russian Railways sued Apple for illegal use of their trademark? Turns out that Russian Railways have found out a third party app which uses their official logo. The app helps customers calculate freight rates for the service - I guess developers decided that the most obvious icon would be Russian Railway's logo. As to why Apple was chosen as the defendant and not the developer - well, I'm not really sure. In any case, despite Apple removing the app from their store back in January and the developer changing the logo to something neutral, Russian Railways as of February 5th are still suing Apple - and for two million rubles, no less - that's about $66,000. So, we’ll keep an eye on that as the situation unfolds. But let’s go to Brazil for a moment. There, too, Apple is having trouble. In fact, it actually lost a legal battle – a major one. Apple lost its iPhone trademark, and while that is bad enough, the added insult to injury is that the owner is now a company that makes phones based on Android, direct competitor to Apple’s mobile operating system. The Brazilian industry regulator, INPI (Instituto nacional da propriedade industrial), has decided that Gradiente SA, also known as IGB Eletronica should own the iPhone trademark as it filed back in 2000, and not in 2007, like Apple. Actually, despite this, Apple quietly sold its iPhones with no problems, only asking for the trademark because the company, back then known as Gradiente SA, was not selling products under this name. Their efforts were unsuccessful and in 2012 the company now known as Eletronica, launched their lines of Anroid-based smartphones… branded as iphone. And now Apple can either appeal the decision made by INPI or ride it out, knowing that at any moment the Brazilian company may sue Apple for copyright infringement if they don’t selling their iPhones in the country. For now, the situation is also far from being resolved.

Oh, and speaking of Brazil. BRICS, the association of emerging national economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is planning on digitizing. During the upcoming forum scheduled for March, the organization will discuss possibility of creation of a web portal, where BRICS Ministers will be able to communicate with each other. You know, like on an online forum. Only it’s going to be a closed community, so, no peaking. Not sure actually why they haven’t done it before. I guess there’s a number of technical and legal issues to consider, sure. But, you know, with the development of digital communications the business world if cutting down on travel and focusing on teleconferencing or closed community projects like this – simply put, it’s cheaper. Efficiency is a separate subject as some people believe some meetings should happen only in person – well, that’s debatable. But only imagine how much money would governments save if they didn’t have to organize these huge summits all the time?

Alas, we’re almost out of time, so I’ll just mention this real quick. What event is celebrated February 14? Of course, everyone’s favorite holiday… YouTube’s birthday! It was founded February 14th, 2005. But I’m kidding, of course. Not kidding about YouTube – it really was founded on Valentine’s Day. As long as we’re going international today, let’s have a look at the United Kingdom. Bing, the search engine launched by Microsoft, has for once excelled in their efforts to be relevant or at least liked. Last fall a British gentleman Andrew, entered a competition as part of Microsoft's Bing is for Doing campaign. His answer to the question “what would he prefer to be doing” was “to propose” and, long story short, Bing helped organize a flashmob through a street performer and a suddenly gathered crowd, leading to the actual proposal. This happened a few days, but I think it’s worth mentioning on this day. Well, there you have it.

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