Japan holds cyber-security drill to prepare for 2020 Olympics

Published: 4:12 AM, March 19, 2014

TOKYO — Japan faced a full-on cyber-attack across government departments yesterday, in a drill aimed at bolstering national security as the country gears up to host the 2020 Olympics.

It 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.

About 50 cyber-defence specialists gathered at an emergency response centre in Tokyo, with at least three times that many off-site, to defend against a simulated attack across 21 state ministries and agencies and 10 industry associations, said Mr Ikuo Misumi, a hacking expert at the state-run National Information Security Center. The exercise simulated a phishing attack, where government officials or businesses opened up their own servers to a computer virus by visiting a fake website.

“Cyber-attacks are becoming more subtle, sophisticated and international, and strengthening Japan’s response to them has become a critical issue,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is in charge of the country’s cyber-security.

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

Cyber-attacks against a closed Japanese network designed to lure and measure hacking increased last year to 12.8 billion times from 7.8 billion the previous year, said its operator, the government-affiliated National Institute of Information and Communications. In a blog post published ahead of the drill, Mr Suga said government sites were attacked twice each minute.

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 hackers. This is a worry for the United States as the two allies review their decades-old defence 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 sued its South Korean rival SK Hynix, saying a former employee passed key chip technology to it.

Responsibility for Japan’s cyber-security is shared among the National Police Agency and four ministries, including those for defence and industry. Reuters