Active cyber defense framework could one day protect Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office

Japan’s cyber defense is said to be vulnerable, so the government is exploring the introduction of an active cyber defense framework, according to sources.

ACD constantly patrols and monitors cyberspace to identify and respond quickly to suspicious communications and behaviors that could pose security threats. The United States and the United Kingdom are among the nations that have adopted the framework as part of their approach to cyber defense.

The framework is a bid to strengthen the nation’s defense against cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure such as telecommunications and the power grid, the government sources said.

The government is making arrangements to include the capability in the National Security Strategy to be revised by the end of the year.

The main pillar of the framework is to give the government the authority to regularly access systems and networks and analyze suspicious communications. Also under discussion as an option is a capability to take countermeasures to neutralize attackers’ data.

Cyber-attacks can cause extensive damage to infrastructure in a short period of time and lead to disruptions in society. Currently, the government can only gather information and take action after damage has been done. There have been widespread calls within the government and the Liberal Democratic Party for the introduction of ACD.

Under the current Law on Prohibition of Unauthorized Computer Access, except for criminal investigations, accessing a third party’s system or network is illegal, even for the purpose of detecting cyber-attacks or identifying their sources. Creating malware to neutralize an attacker is also prohibited by the Penal Code.

The Constitution’s guarantee against violating “the secrecy of any means of communication” has been interpreted to apply to the internet as well. To introduce ACD, the government intends from next year to carefully develop the necessary legal system while taking into consideration the rights of the people.

The government envisions ACD to be handled jointly by the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity and the Self-Defense Forces’ Cyber Defense Command. The government also intends to augment the NISC and the SDF command, which currently has about 500 personnel.

Ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February, cyber-attacks were launched against Ukrainian government agencies and telecommunications companies. Thus, nations are working on developing cyber defense countermeasures.