Police in Japan have recovered a memory card from the collar of a cat found wandering on an island near Tokyo — the latest bizarre turn in their hunt for a hacker, one who has been taunting them with clues for several months.
In December 2012 the National Police Agency (NPA) — Japan’s central law enforcement body, comparable to the FBI in the United States — offered a bounty of ¥3m (£21,000) for a hacker who had been sending emails from computers around the country containing bomb threats against schools and kindergartens, including one attended by the grandchildren of Emperor Akihito.
Emails to public authorities and media organisations, as well as messages posted on public forums, have led the Japanese police on a fruitless and embarrassing chase around the country. The latest twist came after newspapers and TV stations received emailed riddles on New Year’s Day from someone claiming they were “an invitation to a new game”, one that would lead to the “chance for a big scoop”.
It’s the first time that a bounty has been offered for cybercrime in Japan, and it reflects how frustrated the NPA has been in its investigation. Members of the public have been asked to look out for someone who would have been able to program the “iesys.exe” virus using C#, and who also knows how to browse the web without leaving any trace. The hacker in question is said to use a method known as the “Syberian Post Office” to make anonymous posts to the message board site 2channel, which (as best we can figure out) appears to be a way of getting around IP blocks through some kind of proxy.
Understandably, however, the fact that these skills are extremely common among the computing community hasn’t helped the investigation. The NPA did arrest four people in 2012 and announce that it had “extracted confessions” from them, reports AFP, but as the messages and emails continued to appear the police were forced into admitting they’d made a rather humiliating mistake.
The memory card found strapped to the collar of the cat is said to contain information about the iesys.exe virus that only its creator would know. Dubbed the “Remote Control Virus” by the Japanese authorities, it’s allowed its creator to send out threats from computers located across the country, giving the police no clue as to where their hacker’s real location might be.