Japanese cops finally bust notorious cat-hacker

Yusuke Katayama, the Japanese hacker who strapped a memory disk that contained cryptic hints of his identity to the collar of a Tokyo cat has finally been busted by police.


Kevin Morris

Internet Culture

Published Feb 11, 2013   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 1:23 am CDT

The Japanese hacker who strapped a memory disk that contained cryptic hints of his identity to the collar of a Tokyo cat has finally been busted by police.

TV cameras showed police leading a chubby and bespectacled Yusuke Katayama, 30, into custody Sunday. The Tokyo resident had led police on a months-long digital manhunt that began after he took over computers with a virus and then remotely commanded them to call and threaten mass murder across the country, including at a comic book convention and a school attended by emperor Akihito’s grandchildren. 

It was the beginning of an embarrassing series of failures for Japan’s National Police, as the anonymous hacker taunted them with riddles at every turn. Stymied by the hacker’s false trails, they took the unusual step of offering a large cash reward ($34,000) for anyone with information that lead to his arrest. And in a final moment of red-faced embarrassment, authorities arrested four men who confessed to the crime. But police later admitted they’d forced the confessions out of apparent desperation.

Perhaps bored by the police force’s ineptitude, the hacker decided to help them out. He emailed police and journalists a series of tips inviting them “a new game” and promising a “chance for a big scoop.” That led them to the cat on a tiny Japanese island and the memory card strapped to its collar. 

The hacker had the cops in the palm of his hand. He could have sent them to another island, to another cat with a memory card strapped to its neck, which in turn led to another cat and another card, and so on. But instead he played nice. 

In what he claimed to be the last clue, the hacker wrote in a message on the memory card that “a past experience in a criminal case” that had “changed his life” and compelled him to act, according the Associated Press.

Using the hints from the message and security footage from the island, police zeroed in on Katayama as their suspect. Both those slip ups seem incredibly foolish for such an otherwise careful and clever hacker. So perhaps, like every cliched Hollywood criminal mastermind ever, Katayama wanted to be caught. 

He’ll now go down in history as the perpetrator of perhaps the greatest prank ever played against police.

Photo by heatherhoesly/Flickr

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*First Published: Feb 11, 2013, 7:17 pm CST