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Six Arrested in Japan for Android Malware Scheme

According to a report from The Daily Yomiuri, six men have been arrested in Japan for allegedly scamming some 20 million Yen from victims during an Android-based malware scheme. According to the local news magazine, three of the men are IT executives.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo, this case is the first of its kind, as it focuses on the distribution of a smartphone virus. Law enforcement officials say the malicious Android application was downloaded nearly 10,000 times since December 30, 2011. Of those that downloaded the application, more than 200 of the victims were scammed out of combined 20 million Yen (half-a-million USD) in fictitious fees.

"Among the six arrested Wednesday were Chitoru Manago, 45, of Shingu, Wakayama Prefecture; Kazunori Makita, 27, of Edogawa Ward, Tokyo; and Hiroki Koyama, 53, of Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. Manago is a former executive of a now-defunct information technology company in Nakano Ward, Tokyo. The two others currently serve as executives of different IT firms,” the paper reported

The malware, once installed, would pester the victim for a payment with a popup notice, which displayed even when the screen was turned off. The victim was asked – politely no less – to pay about 99,800 Yen ($1,200 USD). In addition to scamming money, the malware would also harvest personal information and store it on a remote server.

The news report didn’t mention charges, which is interesting given that Japan passed a law last year that makes malware creation and distribution a crime. Based on the wording of the law itself, it’s estimated that each of the six men will face a sentence of up to three to five years in prison, and several hundred thousand Yen in fines.

Interestingly, according to Symantec, two sister sites were still up and running following the arrests.

“I had originally thought it was the same group of operators jumping from domain to domain as they were being shut down for their malicious activities,” Symantec’s Joji Hamada noted in a blog post. “I did not realize there could be multiple parties involved. You can see below that someone is still maintaining them as the last modified dates of some of the files were after the arrests were made on June 13.” 

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.