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“IT hospitality” to be targeted during Tokyo Olympics

(Sankei: December 22, 2015 – p. 5)


 By Michiyuki Chiba


 The government is beefing up counterterrorism measures in preparation for the G-7 Summit (Ise-Shima Summit) scheduled for May next year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Although blatant terrorist attacks such as the recent simultaneous attacks in Paris tend to attract more attention, the threat of cyberattacks is equally serious. Cyberterrorists take advantage of the Internet to cause both human and physical damage. Their “skills” are evolving to the extent that they could cause serious damage.


 A government official demonstrated an example of such threats as reported by the American magazine “WIRED” in July this year via Internet video. In the video, two hackers located far away from the target demonstrated that they were able to remotely control a car driving along a highway by infiltrating the car’s system. They were able to control the car’s horn, windshield wipers, air conditioner, brake and accelerator, and radio, among other things.


 Cyberterrorists are able to control mechanical operations as they wish and can cause both human and physical damage. We are living in an era in which various machines and devices are connected to the Internet. The threat posed by cyberattacks now exists in the realm of our daily lives.


 Events such as the Olympics and international conferences attract people’s interest. They have become easy targets for cyberattacks. In particular, Japan is promoting “IT hospitality” for the Tokyo Olympics, during which self-driving vehicles and “wearable devices” such as watches and glasses will be used. These will all be connected to the Internet.


 The convenience of such technology and the risk of cyberattacks are opposite sides of the same coin. Electric power could be shut down in the middle of the opening ceremony, the records of athletes’ performances could be altered, self-driving vehicles carrying visitors could suddenly behave strangely. Cyberterrorists could highjack the power system of the metropolis, which would disrupt traffic and communications.


 “We need to beef up countermeasures with all kinds of possibilities in mind,” said a government official with a sense of crisis. There have not been many cyberterrorism incidents that have caused physical damage. But cyber-spies have been stealing classified information by covertly infiltrating government systems. One such example is the incident at the Japan Pension Service in which 1.25 million items of personal information were leaked.


 “The cyber-spies in this case were probably not targeting the pension information. They must have thought it was a failure after the leakage was revealed. The spies were trying to approach the political center from the periphery to eventually find out what was on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s mind,” said, Keio University Professor Hiroshi Tsuchiya, a cybersecurity expert.


 The cyber-spies conducted targeted e-mail attacks against the pension service. The e-mails were infected with computer viruses. Viruses of the same type were analyzed by Kenzo Masamoto, the chief of the security research center of Macnica Networks, a security company. As a result, the company found out that the viruses were created between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday, Chinese Standard Time. Masamoto points out that “they were developed by an organization for a specific purpose.”


 According to the National Police Agency, the number of targeted e-mail attacks for the first half of this year was 1,472, seven times more than the previous year. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg since many cases go undetected. Individuals who have nothing to do with “classified information” are at risk too. Attackers thoroughly investigate target individuals through Facebook or Twitter. Next, the attackers hijack the personal computers of targets’ families or friends and send e-mails with viruses attached to the targets so that they can infiltrate the targets’ systems. “The current targets are family members of the government officials,” said a cybersecurity expert. (Abridged)

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