Jan 07, 2013 4:38 PM EST
By Max Eddy
Japanese law enforcement is apparently engaged in a bizarre cat-and-mouse game with a hacker that recently involved an actual cat. Like something out of a movie, Japan's National Police Agency (NPA) was compelled to follow a series of clues leading to a memory card attached to the collar of a cat.
This strange series of events began with emails sent from computers around Japan which contained threats to blow up an aircraft, bomb the kindergarten attended by the grandchildren of Emperor Akihito, and other acts of violence. These initial threats led Japanese law enforcement to arrest four individuals, only to release them after it became clear that the suspects' only crime was being infected with the" iesys.exe" malware. Disturbingly, police claimed to have "extracted" confessions from all four prior to confirming their innocence.
On New Year's Day, a string of riddles sent via email to Japanese media outlets eventually led to the cat, who apparently lived on an island near Tokyo.
The memory card carried by the cat allegedly contained information about iesys.exe, also known as the "remote control virus," which is used to take control of infected computers. In their analysis, Symantec confirmed iesys.exe does indeed allow a user to remotely access a computer and send email. Symantec also notes that they believe that the malware is not widespread, despite law enforcement's apparent frustration.
Interestingly, all the reporting attributes the authorship of iesys.exe and these strange events to a single individual. With the popularity of groups like Anonymous and other online hacker collectives, it seems odd that a lone individual can command so much attention.
The investigation appears to be ongoing, though there's no word yet as to whether any fresh clues have been delivered. For anyone interested in playing detective, Wired writes that the NPA has offered the country's first ever cyber-crime bounty of $21,000 for the hacker. Animal control officers might want to take note.
For more from Max, follow him on Twitter @wmaxeddy.