Japan holds first broad cybersecurity drill, frets over Olympics risks

Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:03pm EDT
 

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan faces a full-on cyber attack across government departments on Tuesday in a drill aimed at bolstering national security as the country gears up to host the 2020 Olympics.

Japan is following the lead of Britain, which invited ethical hackers to test its computer systems in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics. In the event, London parried multiple cyber attacks.

Some 50 cyber defense specialists will gather at an emergency response center in Tokyo, with at least three times that many offsite, to defend against a simulated attack across 21 state ministries and agencies and 10 industry associations, said Ikuo Misumi, a hacking expert at Japan's state-run National Information Security Centre.

"It's not that we haven't put effort into cybersecurity, but we are certainly behind the U.S.," Ichita Yamamoto, the cabinet minister in charge of IT policy and who is leading the effort to boost cybersecurity, said in an interview.

The government forecasts Japan's first summer Olympics since 1964 will lift the economy. But officials worry it could also make Japan a target for computer hackers. Attacks by foreign and domestic hackers against the government doubled last year, Misumi said.

Officials have acknowledged that even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has passed a strict official-secrets law, the government cannot adequately protect itself from malicious internet hackers. This is a worry for America as the two allies review their decades-old defense pact to respond to new threats, including state-backed hackers.

The government has also vowed to safeguard Japan's cutting-edge technology from industrial espionage. Last week, Toshiba Corp sued SK Hynix Inc, saying a former employee passed key chip technology to the South Korean rival.

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe points to a reporter during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo March 10, 2014, a day before the third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that struck the nation's northeast. REUTERS/Issei Kato