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Japanese police are blaming a computer virus for a leak of information about criminal investigations.

Information from 19 documents - including investigation reports, expert opinions and police searches - found its way from the hard disk of an officer from Shimogamo Police Station in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, onto the Net last month.

The names, birthdays, addresses and other personal data of 11 people were listed in the leaked documents, along with a detailed description of an alleged crime. Police have promised to notify the 11, including an alleged crime victim, to explain the cock-up.

Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiuri reports that police suspect that a computer virus might have sucked up this sensitive data and spread it over the Net. Viruses like SirCam are capable of this kind of behaviour but an equally likely scenario is that the hapless officer's PC was hacked into.

The leak only came to light after the data was made available to all and sundry over the popular Winny P2P network, the Asahi Shimbun reports.

The officer at the centre of the debacle created the leaked documents in 2002 while practicing how to fill out forms using real data instead of dummy entries.

He was on police box duty and authorised to use his own PC but not to save sensitive data on it, a violation in police procedures that has become the subject of disciplinary inquiry. ®

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