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It was obvious in the late 1990s and early 2000s—the heyday of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks—that the concept was too good to be true. In this edition of Tech Time Warp, we will take a look at, aside from the obvious copyright/pirating issues, P2P networks were catnip to cybercriminals.

That’s a lesson learned the hard way by those whose machines were infected in 2010 with the Kenzero worm. The worm originated in Japan. It was hidden in a copy of an Hentai, or adult anime, game illegally shared on the P2P network Winny. To install the game, the user was required to enter a host of personal information. It was then posted online along with the user’s IP address and web browsing history. Embarrassing, to say the least.

In an early example of ransomware, infected users then received an email offering removal of the information in exchange for 1500 yen. It’s estimated that Kenzero caught more than 5,000 users in its traps. The malware’s creators netted “tens of thousands” of yen before being apprehended.

Other ransomware viruses of Kenzero’s era would add porn-themed icons to a user’s desktop. When a user tried to delete the icons, they would instead receive a pop-up advertising “antivirus software”. This software captured credit card information for sale on the black market. In a social engineering take on the risks of using P2P networks, another virus displayed “law enforcement” warnings related to copyright infringement and demanded payment.

In 2019, the Het Nieuwe Institute in the Netherlands featured Kenzero in a gallery exhibit exploring infamous examples of malware.

Did you enjoy this installation of SmarterMSP’s Tech Time Warp? Check out others here.

Photo: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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