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Japan seeks arrest of Chinese ex-student over alleged link to space agency cyberattacks

  • December 28, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

TOKYO — The Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has obtained an arrest warrant for a former international student of Chinese nationality suspected of attempted fraud in connection with cyberattacks on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and other entities, the MPD announced on Dec. 28.


The suspect, Wang Jianbin, 36, has already returned to China and it is believed to be difficult to arrest him, but the MPD’s bureau plans to place him on an international wanted list through the International Criminal Police Organization.


According to investigators, Wang is suspected of posing as an employee of a Japanese company and attempting to purchase Japanese security software that is sold to domestic companies in November 2016. When the software sales firm checked the corporate registration of the company he claimed to be working for, it turned out that the company did not exist, and the software was not actually sold.


Investigators said the suspect might have tried to figure out a vulnerability in the security software to assist large-scale cyberattacks in which the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was allegedly involved. It is believed that the MPD accordingly decided that compulsory investigation procedures were necessary.


Wang is also suspected of having signed a contract under a false name to license a server that was used in cyberattacks that targeted about 200 domestic institutions, including JAXA, between 2016 and 2017. The Chinese hacker group Tick is said to have been involved in those cyberattacks.


The MPD’s Public Security Bureau’s investigation so far has revealed an overlap between Tick and members of Unit 61419, a subordinate organization of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force that is responsible for cyberattacks.


Under voluntary questioning before returning to China, Wang told the MPD’s bureau that his wife, a military member belonging to Unit 61419, had asked him to “contribute to your country” through social media and emails, and instructed him to purchase Japanese security software and sign the server contract.


Regarding the cyberattacks, the MPD’s bureau sent papers on a member of the Chinese Communist Party in his 30s to prosecutors in April on suspicion of unauthorized creation and use of electromagnetic records for contracting another server used in the attacks under a pseudonym.


(Japanese original by Buntaro Saito, Tokyo City News Department)

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