FOCUS: Past conviction links suspect to cybercrime case, but question remain
(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TOKYO, Feb. 12 -- (Kyodo) _ After a series of embarrassing missteps, including multiple wrongful arrests, police investigating a high-profile cybercrime case detained a 30-year-old man Sunday suspected of using hijacked computers to threaten murder, and who has a previous conviction for a similar crime.
The suspect, Yusuke Katayama, was convicted in an online threat case in 2006, which investigators believe matches information shared by the self-proclaimed perpetrator in the current case, which involves threats posted between June and September last year.
But observers have pointed out inconsistencies that must be addressed by police whose highly publicized mistakes, including the arrests of four innocent people in connection with the case, have cast doubt on their ability to investigate hi-tech crime.
In 2005, Katayama was arrested for posting Internet messages threatening to kill primary school children and record label employees. A court convicted him and gave him one year and six months in prison the following year.
In the latest threat case, the self-claimed perpetrator sent e-mails to media organizations in January, asking them to solve a puzzle which led to a micro SD card for storing data attached to the collar of a cat found in the Enoshima area of Kanagawa Prefecture.
The card contained a message that said, "Because I was embroiled in a criminal case before, despite my innocence, I was forced to make major changes to my life." The email, meanwhile, said, "I wanted to frame police and prosecutors."
During his trial for the 2005 case, Katayama said of his motive, "I thought I don't belong to society and I wanted to see how people would react (to such a person). That was the reason."
His lawyer had asked, "What did you think when you saw many reactions to your posts " He replied, "I was basking in the wrong sense of satisfaction."
The exchanges were recorded in a book by comedian Asozan Daifunka, 38, who listened to and kept records of this and a number of other trials.
According to Asozan, Katayama told the court that he had been bullied during his junior high school years. Katayama was quoted as saying of his university years, "I was told I couldn't fit in and make friends."
Police apparently began focusing on Katayama after security camera footage captured a man resembling him approaching a cat in order to attach an object to the collar and videotaping the cat.
However, at least one ranking officer at the Metropolitan Police Department has doubts about the footage due to the apparent carelessness of the subject, which sharply contrasts with the perpetrator's thoroughness hiding his identity in posting threat messages through other people's PCs using software designed to remain anonymous on the Net.
The police department says it has obtained many pieces of evidence pointing to Katayama remotely controlling others' PCs. But Itsuro Nishimoto, an official of data security company LAC Co., says Katayama may have another scenario in mind, apparently thinking he could eventually escape prosecution.
"If no indictment is filed against him, that would mean humiliation for police and prosecutors," Nishimoto said. "He may have sought arrest."
There remain some issues that need to be addressed.
An official at the National Police Agency said, "We could make an arrest because the suspect revealed himself, but what we fear most are copycats."
Japanese law enforcement authorities have an unflattering record when it comes to hunting down Internet criminals.
Since a raft of documents related to international terrorism investigations was leaked online in 2010, no new information about the suspect has been uncovered. The statute of limitations on the case is scheduled to expire in October.
In the threat cases, too, four people were wrongly arrested as a result of the police relying too much on IP addresses, which helped them locate the PCs from which the threats were sent, when in fact these PCs were remotely hijacked by the perpetrator without the knowledge of the owners.
In January, the National Police Agency devised an emergency program to step up collaboration with private-sector experts versed in computer technology, admitting that police alone could not keep up with the latest advancements in cyber technology.
Despite it having been identified as a priority area, the agency has not made significant budget appropriations for measures to counter cybercrimes. Within its budget of roughly 244 billion yen for fiscal 2013, starting in April, only around 1.8 billion yen, or less than 1 percent, is allocated for such measures.
The charge against Katayama, an employee of an information technology company, in his arrest warrant is forcible obstruction of business, as he is suspected of posting a message last August on an online bulletin board saying that a mass murder would take place at a sales event for comic books, resulting in tightened security at the venue.
After his arrest on Sunday, Katayama said, "I have no knowledge of it at all." The agency officer said, "We were badly burned and there is no more room for us to make mistakes."
(c) 2013 Kyodo News International, Inc.
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]