National / Crime & Legal

Cybercrime reports climb to a record in first half of 2017

Kyodo

The number of reported cybercrimes rose to a record in the first half of 2017, the National Police Agency said Thursday, warning of a new scam in which virtual currency accounts are hacked for illicit money transfers.

The police say they received 69,977 reports in the January to June period, up 4.9 percent from a year earlier and the highest since 2001 when comparable data became available.

The leading category of reports, which account for 36,729 cases, involved fraud and other malicious businesses practices to swindle customers of online shopping sites, the police data showed.

Reports related to unauthorized computer access and viruses stood at 6,848, followed by those linked to email spam at 6,483, including scams in which recipients were told they would inherit large sums of money.

A total of 23 cases involving theft of bitcoin and other virtual currency accounts were reported to police, with close to ¥59.2 million confirmed as having been stolen.

In such cases, virtual currencies are believed to have first been transferred to different accounts before being converted to cash. Reports of such crimes have surged since May and the police fear an increase due to the more widespread use of virtual currencies.

Meanwhile, reports of illicit money transfer involving internet banks drastically fell by 645 cases from a year earlier to 214 cases. The amount of financial damage also dropped by roughly ¥333 million to around ¥564 million, the police said.

The police investigated 4,209 cybercrimes in the period, down 71 from a year before. Stealing money from visitors of pornographic sites made up the bulk of such crimes, standing at 3,808 cases.

The police said they detected a daily average of over 2,000 cases of suspicious or unauthorized access of accounts in the half-year period, down about 250 cases from the last six months of 2016.

Suspicious online activities include an internet search for malicious programs targeting home appliances connected through “internet of things” technology.

“We want users to take such measures as changing their passwords to those that cannot easily be guessed,” a police agency official said.

Although targeted email attacks have abated in the first half of 2017 from the previous six-month period, there have been a surge in crimes involving a new method of PDF attachment to infect computers and steal sensitive data, a police analysis showed.

Along with growing wariness of possible threats posed by compressed files or word format attachments, attackers have likely changed tactics.

Mail sources mimicking existing email addresses were used in 99 percent of targeted email attacks. In most cases, credible institutions such as universities and banks were used for fake addresses.