Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

10/13/2015
01:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Japan's Cybercrime Underground On The Rise

New report sheds light on stealthy cybercrime operations in Japan.

When you think cybercrime, Japan probably isn't top of mind. But like anywhere else, the bad guys there are following the money, and an emerging yet highly stealthy underground economy is growing in Japan.

Researchers at Trend Micro's Forward Looking Threat Research team studied the inner workings of Japan's cybercrime activity, and found some interesting characteristics. Japan is still a newbie here, and the bad guys have a higher bar to clear given the nation's strict criminal laws. So Japan's cybercriminals don't write their own malware due to the tight legal environment against such activity there; they instead buy malware from their counterparts in other nations.

Cybercrime operations there include the illegal buying and selling of counterfeit passports, phone number databases, stolen credit card credentials, hacking advice, child pornography, drugs, and guns  -- all via secured bulletin boards that carefully vet visitors, employ Japanese-language CAPTCHAs, virtual PO boxes, secret jargon, and accept payment mainly via Amazon gift cards or Sony PlayStation Store codes.

"They're building a greater foundation for guilds of thieves in Japan," says Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer for Trend Micro. These cybercrime forums operate under heavier security than do many of their counterparts in other nations, he says.

"Other [nations' cybercriminals] are starting to retrofit operational security. You're seeing them [Japanese cybercriminals] build it from the ground up," Kellermann says. "Their number one focus is stealth, remaining covert in their operations and obfuscating their activities."

Trend Micro researchers found a Japanese BBS called Tor 2 Channel that came with a fake homepage emblazoned with a warning that it had been seized by the FBI, Europol, and the US Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But clicking on one of the national flag icons on that page led to actual BBS sites, the researchers discovered.

Japan's cybercrime operations mainly target Japanese citizens. But their interest in banking malware, ransomware and DDoS tools would indicate their targets could go global, Kellermann says.

Reports of cybercrime in Japan are on the rise: as of March 2015, the number of reports of possible online crime have increased 40% over the previous year, according to data from Japan's National Police Agency. Online bank fraud has resulted in losses of $24 million in 2014, and the cost of online fraud to Japanese banks was $13 million in the first half of this year. Pilfered banking credentials were the likely culprit, Japanese officials say.

"For a country that has a relatively high Internet penetration rate of 86% off a base population of nearly 127 million, a 40% increase is a big deal," Trend Micro wrote of Japan's increase in cybercrime.

In a high-profile hack in June of this year, Japan's Pension Service was hit with a data breach exposing more than one million users' names, ID numbers, birthdates, and physical addresses.

Trend Micro's own data found that Japan was second to the US in nations hit by online banking malware last year. In the second quarter of this year, Japan was the number one nation hit by the Angler exploit kit, according to Trend's data.

Meanwhile, two-factor authentication and chip-and-PIN cards are mandated in Japan, Kellermann notes. "The fact that Japan is experiencing the second largest crime wave is more than likely under-reported," he says of the data.

"They are years ahead of us [the US] in mobile payments," he says.

Japanese cybercriminals typically use watering hole or other secondary infection methods to plant malware on their victims' machines, according to Trend.

Kellermann says he expects Japanese cybercriminals will ultimately write their own malware. "There's far too much talent" for them to not create their own tools, he says. "This is in line with the cultural manifestation of a lot of people in a society disaffected with the government."

 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/13/2015 | 7:44:23 AM
Pornography involvement?
I wonder, as the article alludes, whether Japan has a lot of links with underground pornography, due to its bizarre laws with regards to genital depictions. The relatively recent overhaul of underage pornography laws too, must be creating a strange environment for those that trade in it.
News
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Commentary
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15734
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
An Origin Validation Error vulnerability in Bitdefender Safepay allows an attacker to manipulate the browser's file upload capability into accessing other files in the same directory or sub-directories. This issue affects: Bitdefender Safepay versions prior to 25.0.7.29.
CVE-2020-7924
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
Usage of specific command line parameter in MongoDB Tools which was originally intended to just skip hostname checks, may result in MongoDB skipping all certificate validation. This may result in accepting invalid certificates.This issue affects: MongoDB Inc. MongoDB Database Tools 3.6 versions late...
CVE-2021-27486
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
The Fatek Automation WinProladder Versions 3.3 and prior are vulnerable to an integer underflow, which may cause an out-of-bounds write and allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code.
CVE-2021-3465
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-15942
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-12
An information disclosure vulnerability in Web Vulnerability Scan profile of Fortinet's FortiWeb version 6.2.x below 6.2.4 and version 6.3.x below 6.3.5 may allow a remote authenticated attacker to read the password used by the FortiWeb scanner to access the device defined in the scan profile.