As early as FY2022, the National Police Agency (NPA) will send liaison officers specializing in cybercrime to European investigative authorities for the first time. With the launch of its “cybersecurity bureau” in April 2022, the NPA will create an environment conducive to participating in joint international investigations of cybercrime. Europe and the U.S. cooperate to expose cyber criminals. The NPA’s move will strengthen Japan’s international cooperation, an area in which Japan lags notably behind.
On Dec. 17, the NPA’s meeting of experts on cybersecurity policy summarized its recommendations, which included the dispatch of officers to Europe.
According to the NPA, officers specializing in the collection of intelligence on cybercrime and those serving as contacts for such information have been dispatched to the U.S. to date, but this is the first time officers will be dispatched to Europe. Europe has taken the lead in recent years in the detection of cyber criminals and criminal strongholds.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) announced in November 2021 that it had exposed the operators of the ransomware “REvil.” REvil is said to have been used in the attacks on U.S. tech company Kaseya as well as a Kajima Corporation overseas subsidiary, and the ransom amounted to 500,000 euros (about 64 million yen). Seventeen countries, including several European nations, the U.S., and South Korea, participated in the international investigation, and Romanian authorities detained the suspect. Japan did not participate in the investigation.
The damage caused by cybercrime often extends across many parts of the world. Each country shares and analyzes the investigative information obtained, leading to the understanding and exposure of criminal organizations.
Japan’s sharing of information was limited because the prefectural police investigate cybercrime after receiving a damage report. With the prefectural police’s posture, “it often took a long time to respond” to overseas inquiries for investigation information, according to a top NPA official.
The NPA will establish a new cybersecurity bureau in April 2022. The functions of bureaus and departments which handled such responsibilities as leakage of confidential information, will be consolidated into a single bureau that oversees investigations, education, and other operations related to cyberspace. In April 2022, the NPA will also launch the “cybersecurity squad,” an investigative unit dedicated to cybersecurity. The unit will be directly responsible for investigating serious incidents.
Ransomware attacks targeting hospitals in Europe and the U.S. have also been targeting those in Japan since the COVID-19 pandemic. A municipal hospital in Tsurugi Town, Tokushima Prefecture, was attacked at the end of October 2021, disabling access to the electronic medical records of about 85,000 patients.
Miwa Nobuo, president of cybercrime countermeasures company S&J, said, “Attackers are always looking for security opportunities, and damage is spreading to Japan’s hospitals and small and medium-sized enterprises that take inadequate countermeasures.” Miwa noted that “deterrence based on international investigation cooperation will become more important.” (Partially abridged)