Economic security measures by police are in full swing to prevent cyberattacks and the leakage of information on Japan’s cutting-edge technology overseas. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD) has been conducting outreach activities to companies, explaining specific methods of espionage, and providing individual consultations to companies.
On Dec. 1, the TMPD held its first economic security strategy meeting, bringing together relevant personnel from all police stations in Tokyo. The aim is to use the accumulated experience of investigating incidents to raise the awareness of countermeasures in the private sector, promote information sharing and analysis, and prevent such incidents.
Economic security is the centerpiece of the Kishida administration’s policies. The administration held the first meeting of the Council for the Promotion of Economic Security at the Prime Minister’s Office in November.
In March this year, the TMPD, which protects the capital city of Tokyo where major corporations are located, established a project team (PT) for economic security in its Public Security Bureau. Its outreach activities have been in full swing since September, and the police have visited about 50 companies so far, mainly large manufacturing companies that handle cutting-edge technologies such as semiconductors, etc.
Using the experience the police have accumulated through past investigations, the TMPD provides information on the specific methods of spying against corporations.
Such information includes, for example, a case the TMPD uncovered in January last year in which a former employee of Softbank, a major telecommunications company, illegally leaked confidential information to an official of the Russian Trade Representative in Japan.
According to the police, the Russian official approached the former employee by speaking to him in Japanese under the guise of chance encounter. They gradually got to know each other over meals at Japanese izakaya pubs and other places where the Russian official intently listened to the employee’s concerns about his work. In this way, the Russian official gradually started instructing the employee in specific ways to provide information.
The TMPD aims to increase the sense of urgency among businesses regarding the theft of technical information by introducing these espionage methods. Although countermeasures against cyber-attacks are becoming more widespread among companies, a senior TMPD official said, “They are not sufficiently aware that their employees are the targets of spies.”
Thus far the Public Security Bureau has taken the lead in implementing countermeasures against espionage. In order to approach a wide range of companies with cutting-edge technologies, regardless of the size of company, the bureau plans to have police stations focus on information gathering and analysis.
The National Police Agency (NPA) newly appointed an “economic security response officer” in January this year. The NPA aims to further strengthen the current posture next spring. In order to provide information and measures to companies in prefectures that have experienced few economic security incidents, briefing sessions are held for those in charge in such prefectures, thereby strengthening information aggregation and sharing.