A 14-year-old boy in Osaka Prefecture was charged Monday for allegedly created ransomware, the first such arrest in Japan, police said.
The third-year junior high school student is suspected of combining free encryption software to create ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts computer files and makes them inaccessible until the user pays a ransom, the sources said.
The student living in the city of Takatsuki has admitted to creating the ransomware on Jan. 6. He uploaded it to an overseas website and guided people to the website through social media so they would download it, the sources said. He told investigators it took him about three days to create the ransomware using his personal computer.
While no financial losses from the malware infection have been confirmed so far, people who downloaded the malware could also be charged with violating the law on acquiring electromagnetic records by illegal command, the sources said.
The teen's ransomware allowed a downloader to infect a victim's computer, demanding in Japanese that a payment be made in digital currency.
The student has told investigators he wanted to become famous and the ransomware had been downloaded more than 100 times.
The boy participated in a computer skills class on how to assemble a personal computer when he was in elementary school, according to the sources.
The Kanagawa prefectural police encountered the case through cyberpatrolling in January and confiscated the teen's computer during a house search in April.
The arrest came after a massive cyberattack in May using ransomware known as WannaCry that hit over 150 countries, disrupting the British health service system and work at numerous organizations, including Japanese companies.
The WannaCry ransomware, which demanded payment in virtual currency bitcoin in exchange for a password to unlock data, is believed to have circulated across networks by exploiting a weakness in Microsoft's Windows operating system.
"Ransomware is on the rise with the spread of virtual currency bitcoin," said Tetsutaro Uehara, a professor at Ritsumeikan University who specializes in information security.
Noting it is difficult to recover data once a computer is infected with ransomware, Uehara said it is "crucial to make backups just in case."
Computer security firm Trend Micro Inc. detected over 65,400 ransomware attacks in Japan last year, marking a 9.8-fold jump from the year before, according to the company.
Ransomware targeting Android smartphones and tablet devices surged in the first quarter of 2017, with the security company confirming 123,100 types worldwide during that period, around 5.6 times more than those seen a year earlier.© KYODO