Li Jun, the Chinese computer hacker behind the infamous Panda Burns Incense virus that infected millions of PCs beginning in 2006, has been charged with running an online gambling site. Chinese authorities reportedly detained Li in February, following the shutdown of the Gold Ingot Chess and Card site in May 2012 after about a year in operation. Li’s arrest was confirmed on Thursday following a statement by officials in Lishui, Zheijang.
The Panda virus – also known as Fujacks – made headlines after seemingly innocuous graphics of a panda holding three burning joss sticks replaced icons of files on computers across China. What users didn’t realize was that the virus also installed a Trojan Horse that stole passwords for users’ online gaming and instant messaging accounts. Li sold copies of the virus to other hackers, leading to China’s first arrests for virus writing activity in 2007.
Li was forced to cough up the US $18k he reportedly earned from his virus sales and ultimately served three years of a four-year sentence. Upon his release, Li told the Wall Street Journal that he hoped for a “fresh start” by pursuing only “white hat” internet activities in future. Li went as far as to donate RMB 50k (US $7.5k) to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding as an “act of remorse” for linking a beloved Chinese icon with malignant computer chicanery. But suspicions were raised at the time that Li had earned his early release by agreeing to use his hacking skillz to conduct online espionage on behalf of Chinese authorities.
However, Li reportedly got involved in the online gambling site not long after his release from prison, along with 17 other individuals – including one of Li’s Panda accomplices – who were detained by authorities when the site was shuttered. Li’s fate is unknown, but Article 303 of China’s Criminal Law calls for anyone “who sets up any casino” to be sentenced to a maximum three years in prison. That sentence can be raised to 10 years “if the circumstances are serious.”