First Line of Defense: Japan's Underground Cybercriminals: Anonymous, Illusive, Alive

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First Line of Defense
Your regular source of security updates from TrendLabs
October 31, 2015

Japan’s Underground Cybercriminals: Anonymous, Illusive, Alive


Japan remains as one of the top countries in the world in terms of economy and technology. It nurtures growth in its circle where culture and disciplines thrive. However, not even the seemingly Utopian landscape can be rid of darker entities that propagate crime and other malicious activities. Trend Micro tackles the brooding threat of cybercrime in the Japanese forefront.

An observation on the rise of cybercriminal activity gave birth to our report, The Japanese Underground. With the growth of the economy brings to surface criminals of a new breed; younger, bolder, and more importantly, slowly learning the tools of the trade in the cybercrime world.

"With the growth of the economy brings to surface criminals of a new breed; younger, bolder, and more importantly, slowly learning the tools of the trade in the cybercrime world."
One concerning fact that our report reveals is that online crimes in Japan have gone up by nearly 40% in March 2015. The criminal intent is there, as well as the tools and the knowledge in doing so. Data from the Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ also showed that Japan was the 2nd most affected country by online banking malware in 2014, just 2nd to the U.S. This will surely add pressure on law enforcement to setup countermeasures against cybercrime in the country.

The paper describes the growth as “still young” as these hackers rely on purchasing malware and hacking tools instead of creating new ones themselves. There is a fear that this will accelerate given that hacking knowledge is also rampant. We’ve found several examples of sites giving advice on hacking enemies, extorting money through malware, and where to go to find the tools necessary for these attacks.

The report tackles everything we’ve discovered about the Japanese underground – the illusive measures taken to remain anonymous, the language behind the bulletin board systems, lucrative opportunities, and the trajectory of this subculture. Here are some critical points found in our research:

The Onion Channel, or Tor 2 Channel, provides a secure space for cybercriminals as it provides anonymity and exclusivity. A total of 2,224 underground site URLs were found where some of these are used for cybercrime.
SAFe-mail, captcha, and virtual PO boxes are utilized to keep users anonymous. While this works in the interests of general users to make their posts anonymous, this also makes it even harder for authorities to trace cybercriminals.
Cybercriminals in Japan are avoiding traditional currency or online currency such as bitcoin and are using alternatives such as Amazon ™ gift cards and Playstation ® Store codes.
Illegal contraband and paraphernalia exchanged in the cyber-underground include personal information used to create false credit accounts, fake passports, hacking tools, firearms, and child pornography.

The future is still wide open for both cybercriminals and law enforcement. Whoever takes advantage on the infancy stage of the Japanese underground cybercrime world may capitalize on the fact. For more details, read our full report The Japanese Underground.


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