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Virus writers charged with copyright violation

Movie-munching Trojan miscreants go all Winny

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Japan has arrested its first suspected virus writers, but in a strange twist the three suspected creators and distributors of a strain of P2P malware have been charged with copyright violation, in an arrest that recalls Al Capone's prosecution for tax evasion.

The trio were cuffed by cops in Kyoto on suspicion of involvement in a plot to infect users of the Winny P2P file-sharing network with a Trojan horse that displayed images of popular animé characters while wiping MP3 and movie files. The malware, called Harada is Japanese reports, is reckoned to be related to the Pirlames Trojan horse intercepting by net security firm Sophos in Japan last year.

According to local reports, the three men have confessed to their roles in unleashing the malware. One is said to have created the malware, while the other duo are reckoned to have offered the malware up to prospective marks on Winny. A lack of relevant computer crime law in Japan means that the group have been charged with copyright offences.

"It isn't illegal to write viruses in Japan, so the author of the Trojan horse has been arrested for breaching copyright because he used cartoon graphics without permission in his malware," explained Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Because this is the first arrest in Japan of a virus writer, it's likely to generate a lot of attention and there may be calls for cybercrime laws to be made tighter."

Due to the lack of applicable cybercrime laws, the authors of the malware face much the same fate as the coder who developed Winny. Isamu Kaneko, Winny's author, was fined by a Japanese court in December 2006 for copyright offences. ®

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