U.S. Report Highlights Japan’s Vulnerability to Cyber-attacks

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

A recent U.S. news report saying Chinese military hackers had gained access to Japan’s most sensitive defense networks has highlighted this nation’s potential vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

The government is currently working to improve laws and boost human resources in the cyberdomain, but numerous issues still need to be addressed.

“We’re in close and regular communication with the United States on various levels,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference Tuesday.

A series of cyber-attacks against government agencies and defense-related companies has been reported in Japan. The National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC) has found that email addresses and other information may have been leaked due to unauthorized and unprecedented external access.

“It’s possible that China was behind such transgressions,” a government official said. Beijing reportedly has about 30,000 individuals tasked with launching cyber-attacks.

Taiwan’s National Defense Ministry believes the Chinese military may be laying the groundwork to disrupt key social infrastructure by identifying potential cyber-attacks targets ahead of a possible contingency involving Taiwan.

Observers have also flagged the possibility of China launching cyber-attacks against Japan to hinder the activities of U.S. forces and others here if an emergency situation involving Taiwan were to unfold.

The government is currently working on a new cyberdefense-related law to prevent serious cyber-attacks.

The Self-Defense Forces’ specialized cyber-unit is expected to expand from about 890 individuals — as of the end of fiscal 2022 — to about 4,000 by the end of fiscal 2027.

Personnel with advanced skills are crucial to formulate countermeasures against cyber-attacks. However, a senior government official recently opined that it will be difficult to attract top personnel from the private sector, even if their salaries are at the vice-ministerial level.

There is also an urgent need to establish regulations for a security clearance system that grants access to sensitive information with an eye on building a cooperative framework between the public and private sectors.