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Government to require electricity providers to take cyberdefense measures

  • September 8, 2016
  • , Sankei , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

The Sankei Shimbun learned on Sept. 7 that the government will require electricity providers, including the ten major electric utilities and new power suppliers, to take cyberdefense measures in order to prevent cyberattacks on power transmission facilities. The administration will revise ministerial ordinances based on the Electricity Enterprise Law and internal provisions under safety regulations at the end of September. Electric companies will submit their cyberterrorism measures to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) by the end of this year for the government’s confirmation. If a large scale power outage occurs after a cyberattack on a power plant, it could disable urban functions. Bearing in mind the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the government will strengthen its defense posture.


Under the government’s Basic Energy Plan, the administration aims to install a “smart meter,” a next generation wattmeter equipped with a communication device to connect households with electricity providers, at every household and electricity provider by the early 2020s.


In view of this development, the government believes that there is a growing risk of cyberattacks on power grids via the Internet. However, since there have been no legal requirements up until now for cyberterrorism countermeasures, which have been left up to the discretion of electric companies, the government intends to standardize them based on guidelines.


Under the guidelines, electric companies will be required  to strictly control workers’ access to relevant facilities, encrypt data to prevent information leakage, and improve security for Internet connections with outside facilities.


The government will require the 10 major electric utilities, including the Tokyo and the Kansai electric companies, to submit cyberdefense measures to METI. The new power suppliers that are increasing in number following the full liberalization of the electricity market will not be obligated to submit such measures for the time being, but if the government regards their measures as insufficient, it can order them take corrective actions.


There have been no reports of serious incidents involving power grids caused by cyberattacks in Japan.


However, a cyberattack caused a large scale blackout in Ukraine in 2015, and oil pipelines exploded in an incident in Turkey in 2008, which was allegedly caused by somebody hacking into the facility’s control function.


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