Bangkok Post

14-year old arrested for creating ransomware


YOKOHAMA: A 14-year-old boy in Osaka prefecture was charged yesterday with creating ransomware, the first such arrest in Japan, police said.

The third-year junior high school student is suspected of combining free encryption software to create ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts computer files and makes them inaccessib­le until the user pays a ransom, the sources said.

The student living in the city of Takatsuki has admitted to the allegation of creating the ransomware on Jan 6, uploading it to an overseas website and guiding people to the website through social media so they would download it, the sources said.

No financial losses from the malware infection have been confirmed so far, the sources said.

The teen’s ransomware allowed a downloader to infect a victim’s computer, demanding in Japanese that a payment be made in digital currency.

The student has told investigat­ors he wanted to become famous and the ransomware had been downloaded more than 100 times.

“The male student apparently learned how to create it on his own,” a source said.

The Kanagawa prefectura­l police encountere­d the case through cyber-patrolling in January and confiscate­d the teenager’s computer during a house search in April.

The arrest came after a massive cyberattac­k in May using ransomware known as WannaCry that hit more than 150 countries, disrupting the British health service system and work at numerous organisati­ons, including Japanese companies.

The WannaCry ransomware, which demanded payment in virtual currency bitcoin in exchange for a password to unlock data, is believed to have circulated across networks by exploiting a weakness in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

“Ransomware is on the rise with the spread of virtual currency bitcoin, which enables records of transactio­ns to be erased,” said Tetsutaro Uehara, a professor at Ritsumeika­n University who specialize­s in informatio­n security.

Noting it is difficult to recover data once a computer is infected with ransomware, Uehara said it is “crucial to make backups just in case”.

Computer security firm Trend Micro detected more than 65,400 ransomware attacks in Japan last year, marking a tenfold jump from the year before, according to the company.

Ransomware targeting Android smartphone­s and tablets surged in the first quarter of 2017, with the security company confirming 123,100 types worldwide.

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