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Sophos : Man admits to writing anime Trojan Horse that attacked P2P users

March 2008 by Sophos

Bizarre file-sharing malware displayed copyrighted anime characters while wiping movie and music files. IT security and control firm Sophos is reminding businesses of the importance of protecting their networks from cyberattack, as a Japanese man admits in court to writing a data-destroying Trojan horse.

Masato Nakatsuji, the 24-year-old who in January became the first ever virus writer to be arrested in Japan, admitted in Kyoto District Court that he created a Trojan horse and used popular copyrighted animation footage to spread it via the net, and ultimately wipe music and movie files from users’ computers. The malicious code, believed to be the Pirlames Trojan, was spread via the controversial Winny file-sharing system in Japan in 2007.

Nakatsuji made the admission during the first day of the trial, where he answered charges of copyright infringement and defaming an acquaintance by embedding his photograph into the malicious code.

"Al Capone was charged with tax evasion rather than racketeering, and Masato Nakatsuji is being charged with copyright infringement rather than for creating his movie and music-munching malware," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "If he is found guilty, the general public are unlikely to worry that it was his ill-advised choice of graphics which got him into legal trouble rather than virus-writing. However, a clear message needs to be sent to the computer underground that they will not be shown a blind eye if they spread malicious code and damage innocent people’s computers and data."

The court in Kyoto heard prosecutors describe how Nakatsuji is alleged to have created the Trojan horse, attached it to copyrighted animated pictures and planted links to it on internet message forums. However, Nakatsuji’s defence team has argued that the malware was not seriously malignant, and that justice would not be served by punishing the graduate student of Osaka Electro-Communication University for spreading the Trojan horse when there were no specific laws against it.

Isamu Kaneko, the author of the Winny file-sharing program, was fined by a Japanese court in December 2006 for assisting in copyright violation. The rights and wrongs of the case have been widely debated on the internet.

Sophos experts note that this is not the first time that the Winny file-sharing network has been troubled by malware. In May 2006, Sophos reported that a virus had leaked power plant secrets via Winny for the second time in four months. The previous month, a Japanese anti-virus company admitted that internal documents and customer information had been leaked after one of its employees failed to install anti-virus software.

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