Japan’s Cybercriminals Request Payment in Gift Cards

Japan’s cybercrime underground is still in its infancy with participants lacking the technical know-how to create malware, yet reports of incidents to police have soared 40% over the past year, according to Trend Micro.

The security giant analysed data collected by its cloud-based Smart Protection Network and Deep Web Analyzer to compile its latest report: The Japanese Underground.

It found the country’s cyber-criminals are far less technically savvy and prolific than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, but with a growing desire to develop their skills and expand their activities.

That said, the country’s National Police Agency has seen a 40% increase in reports from cybercrime victims in March 2015 from the previous year – a large number when one considers Japan’s 86% internet penetration rate.

In fact, the country was the second most affected by online banking malware after the US last year, Trend Micro said.

However, strict cybercrime legislation and the ease with which money transfer and other non-internet based scams work has meant the online criminal underground is still at a very early stage in its development.

Several idiosyncrasies in Japan’s Deep Web sites are highlighted by the report, including the fact that some URLs are actually published in books and magazines on the non-indexed web.

Cyber-criminals are also keen to further mask their activity on these sites by speaking in ‘secret’ jargon.

Payment is often requested in gift cards from Amazon or the PlayStation Store rather than cash, while Japanese language CAPTCHA is used by the admins of many BBSs, ensuring only locals can access them.

In terms of Deep Web sites, Trend Micro found the usual suspects offering stolen credit card details, telephone number databases, fake passports, child porn and weapons.

So far, the notorious yakuza organised crime gangs haven’t taken to cybercrime in a major way, although if they decided to venture into the darknet, all they would need is some tech-savvy assistance to get started, report author Akira Urano concluded.

“The Japanese cybercriminal underground is still young, and its future is wide open. Both law enforcement agencies and cybercriminals have yet to actively take advantage of this window of opportunity,” he added. “Whoever does so first many gain an upper hand in the long run.”

However, for the meantime, the “capability of the police is getting better” and as far as the majority of criminal activity is concerned, “the traditional modus operandi” of real world, rather than online scams, will prevail, he told Infosecurity.

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