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'They had some nerve': Ethical hacker shares details on pirate 'Manga-Mura' site

The now-inaccessible pirate manga website "Manga-Mura" is seen in this April 17, 2018 image. (Mainichi/Kishi Tatsuya)

TOKYO -- "Manga-Mura" (manga village) was a pirate website where comics were uploaded without permission for others to read for free. It quickly gained popularity as a replacement for the site "Free Books," which was closed in May 2017.

Users could read manga titles without signing up, and because the website didn't charge visitors to use the service, it is believed to have been operating on advertising revenue.

But the opening and closing of pirate websites is a constant game of cat and mouse. It appears that children are also using such services on their smartphones without careful consideration. People in the manga and publishing industries treat the sites' existence as a potential crisis for their business, saying that continued copyright infringement will have a negative influence on the future of manga.

An ethical "white hat" hacker, 22, residing in the Kanto region in east Japan, who engages in surveillance of malicious hackers, researched the Manga-Mura website. On his blog, he implicated 27-year-old Romi Hoshino as an individual connected with the site's management.

Looking back on how the site was operated, the hacker said, "They had some nerve." Until that point pirate websites had mainly tended to function as "leech sites," linking to other websites that had uploaded content illegally. But on Manga-Mura, the images were uploaded directly to their own site.

Further investigations into the website's domain revealed that Manga-Mura was created by a website production company based in the Seychelles, a nation made up of islands in the Indian Ocean -- in an apparent attempt to disguise the actual owner.

Speaking to the Mainichi Shimbun, the ethical hacker said, "Careful preparations were made to try to ensure the identities of those running Manga-Mura couldn't be detected easily. I think that's one kind of cybercrime."

(Japanese original by Ikuko Ando, City News Department)

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