Japan Hit by Cyberattacks at an Unprecedented Level

Japan is trying to battle cyber attacks through increased international cooperation.

Japan Hit by Cyberattacks at an Unprecedented Level
Credit: Cyberattack via Shutterstock.com

According to the National Institute of Information Communications Technology (NICT), Japan experienced more than than 25 billion cyberattacks in 2014, with 40 percent of them traced back to China, followed by South Korea, Russia, and the United States. More than 25.66 billion attempts to compromise systems were recorded by the NICT, a figure that also included attacks aimed at testing the vulnerability of software used in servers, according to Kyodo News. Without vulnerability testings, the number is around 12.8 billion, according to the Japan Times.  This continues a general upward trend in the number of cyber attacks –  in 2005, just 310 million attempts were recorded – which are an increasing concern for Japanese policy makers. Their answer: more international dialogue on how to best deal with this burgeoning issue.

As I pointed out before, Japan continues to expand its network of partners across the world to find means to jointly combat cyber attacks. The year 2014 in particular saw an increased push by Japan to forge closer ties with like-minded countries in cyberspace.  For example, on the multilateral level, in November 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,  Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and President Barack Obama met in Brisbane, Australia, during the G20 Leaders’ Summit pledging their “their firm commitment to deepen the already strong security and defense cooperation” especially in cyber capacity building.

On the bilateral level, Japan has been equally active over the past year. For example,  in August 2014, the joint US-Japan Cyber Defense Policy Working Group convened at the Pentagon, co-chaired by the Japanese Ministry of Defense and U.S. Department of Defense. Topics of discussion included capacity building for cyber defenses, and information sharing. Also, the Interim Report on the Revision of the U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation, released in October 2014,  emphasized that Washington and Tokyo will deepen their cooperation on cybersecurity by sharing information on cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

Japan is also actively seeking out Asian partners. In February of this year, Canberra and Tokyo convened their first cyber policy dialogue with a special emphasis on developing international norms and the applicability of international law to cyberspace. In December 2014, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication and India’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology also held a cyber working group meeting as agreed to earlier under the India-Japan ICT Comprehensive Cooperation Framework. Private sector companies from both countries participated and both sides agreed to work on a joint initiative to combat spam and to create an early warning system for cyber attacks.

Japan has also tried to establish closer ties with European countries. As I have written here, in December 2014 British and Japanese officials met to discuss possible cybersecurity threats in the run-up and during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Games, based on the U.K.’s experience of hosting the games back in 2012. In December 2014, the Japanese and French governments also held a cyber-dialogue in Paris discussing critical infrastructure protection, the establishment of international norms, and joint efforts towards cybersecurity capacity building. This was followed by a Japan-Estonia cyber dialogue with a similar agenda in the same month last year.

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Cooperation with like-minded countries is especially important for Japan. As I stated before:

Japan sees cooperation with Europe on cybersecurity in particular as more important than ever. One reason is the increasing threat posed by authoritarian regimes such as China to the multi-stakeholders model of internet governance (e.g., hindering the free flow of information and as a consequence undermining human rights online.), which runs counter to Japan’s idea of a free and open Internet.