TOKYO — Japanese authorities logged a record number of reported cybercrimes in the first half of 2017, the National Police Agency said Thursday, while warning of a new scam in which virtual currency accounts are hacked for illicit money transfers.The police say they received 69,977 reports in the January to June period, up 4.9 percent from a year earlier and the highest since 2001 when comparable data became available.
The leading category of reports, comprising 36,729 cases, involved the use of fraud and other malicious businesses practices to swindle customers of online shopping sites, the police data showed.
Reports related to unauthorized computer access and viruses stood at 6,848, followed by those linked to email spam at 6,483, including scams in which recipients were told they would inherit large sums of money.
A total of 23 cases involving theft of bitcoin and other virtual currency accounts were reported to police, with some 59.2 million yen ($542,000) confirmed as having been stolen.
In such cases, virtual currencies are believed to have been transferred to different accounts before being converted to cash. Reports of such crimes have surged since May and the police fear an increase due to the rising number of people using virtual currencies.
Meanwhile, reports of illicit money transfer involving internet banks drastically fell by 645 cases from a year earlier to 214 cases. The amount of financial damage also dropped by roughly 333 million yen to around 564 million yen, the police said.
The police investigated 4,209 cybercrimes in the period, down 71 from a year before. Swindling of money from viewers of pornographic sites made up the bulk of such crimes, standing at 3,808 cases.
The police said they detected an average of over 2,000 suspicious daily accesses in the half-year period, down about 250 cases from the latter half of last year.
Suspicious online activities included an internet search for malicious programs targeting home appliances connected through “Internet of Things” technology.
“We want users to take such measures as changing their passwords to those that cannot easily be guessed,” a police agency official said.
Although the number of targeted email attacks fell in the period from the latter half of 2016, a police analysis showed a surge in crimes that used a new method of attaching PDF files to infect computers and stealing individual or corporate data.
As threats of targeted emails with compressed files or word format files have already been widely recognized, attackers are believed to have changed their tactics.
Mail sources forging existing email addresses were used in 99 percent of targeted email attacks. In most cases, credible institutions such as universities and banks were used for fake addresses.