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Editorial: Is Japan ready for the rising threat of cyberattacks?

  • January 27, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The threat of cyberattacks is rising. Is Japan ready for it?

 

The most recent case in Japan was the attack on Mitsubishi Electric Corp. There are suspicions that the personal information of around 8,000 employees and information on both government and private sector clients was stolen.

 

A company computer was infected by malware, which wrought the widespread damage. Chinese hackers are said to have been involved.

 

Sensitive information regarding such fields as defense, the power grid and railways are said not to have been included among the leaked information, but it was an attack on a massive scale. The possibility that such classified information had been targeted cannot be denied.

 

There is a need to clarify the state of the company’s systems and crisis management protocols that were in place when the attack happened.

 

The purpose of cyberattacks is not necessarily limited to the theft of information. There is also the invasion of a program in order to destroy it; encrypting vital files and extorting money to restore them; using social media to manipulate public opinion and spread disinformation; the list goes on.

 

Attacks via the internet is hard to detect, and there are times when the damage goes unnoticed. But an attack on infrastructure systems can have serious impacts on the lives of regular citizens.

 

For example, cyberattacks have caused widespread power outages in western Ukraine, a halt of hospital systems in the U.K., serious delays on Swedish railways, and disabled transactions at South Korean banks.

 

In a society in which a wide range of things, such as cars and household electrical appliances, have become connected through the internet due to innovations in digital technology, the risks that an attack pose are greater.

 

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), efforts to sniff out flaws in systems in order to launch cyberattacks have increased every year in Japan. What is important is preventing cyberattacks from occurring in the first place. Corporations and organizations should reconfirm whether their defense systems are watertight. Leaked information will not only do harm to one’s firm or organization — the damage goes further than that.

 

The government must cooperate with the private sector and institute strategic measures with the National center of Incident readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC) as the control tower.

 

However, corporations that have suffered cyberattacks are said to be reluctant to provide information out of fear that it will lead to a loss of confidence. But withholding the information will not help create effective preventative measures.

 

International cooperation is indispensable in stopping cyberattacks. Japan should further promote cooperation with the U.S., which has abundant knowledge in this field, and developing countries, which are considered to have weak cyber-defenses.

 

The Summer Olympics and Paralympics will be held in Tokyo this year. During the PyeongChang Olympics two years ago, there were 5.5 million cases of cyberattacks during the 2018 Winter Games. May that be a lesson for Japan to take effective steps.

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