Rapelay-style porn games targeted by 'name to shame' extortion scam

Hentai anime fans' IE bookmarks posted online -- unless they pay US$16 to remove proof of porn use

To be honest, if you're playing this sort of thing, you probably kind of deserve what you get.

To be honest, if you're playing this sort of thing, you probably kind of deserve what you get.

A Japanese cyber extortion gang is running a new "name to shame" scam by duping users who pirate adult games into installing malware, then demanding that they pay up to keep their names from being publicly posted on the Web, a researcher said today.

The scheme is a new one in the world of "ransomware," the practice of mucking with users' files then extorting money to release them back to their rightful owners, said Rik Ferguson, a senior security researcher with Trend Micro's U.K. office.

According to Trend Micro, whose researchers in both Japan and the U.K. have analyzed the attack, extortionists seeded a Trojan horse onto a popular Japanese file-sharing service called Winny, which has an estimated 200 million users. The malware posed as installers for adult games in the Hentai genre, a pornographic form of anime.

"The installer asks a whole series of personal questions, including name, date of birth, phone number, mailing address, company name and game passwords," said Ferguson. "It also collects information from the PC, including screenshots of Internet Explorer's Favorites." The latter is IE's term for its bookmarks.

That information, as well as the IE screenshots, were posted to a Web site that is currently offline. Before it went dark, it was used by criminals to extort 1,500 yen, or approximately US$16, from victims by promising to remove the information.

"Victims receive e-mail from a company called Romancing Inc., which claims they were in breach of copyright infringement," said Ferguson. "For a fee, [the criminals] would remove that information and resolve the copyright infringement."

Although copyright infringement scams have been used by cyber criminals -- a recent attack hit European users who were accused of illegally downloading music -- the pornographic angle is new. "This 'name to shame' tactic hasn't been used before," Ferguson said.

If the victims had regularly surfed to Hentai sites, the IE activity screenshots and extortion demand would have been very effective in embarrassing users into paying up, he added.

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Gregg Keizer

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