Ruling bloc readies bill to bolster cybersecurity amid growing attacks

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Lawmakers in the ruling camp are preparing to submit a bill to the Diet next fall aimed at strengthening the government’s cybersecurity to more quickly counter an increasing number of attacks, a member of the ruling bloc involved in the issue said Tuesday.

According to a tentative outline of the basic cybersecurity bill, the National Information Security Center, or NISC, would be given a legal foundation and its specific role would be fleshed out.

The bill would also seek to enhance cooperation among the country’s 13 critical infrastructure operators in finance, electricity, petroleum, transportation and other industries.

The NISC was formed under the Cabinet Secretariat in 2005 to monitor, analyze and counter cyberattacks across ministries. Yet the NISC has not been able to perform in the way it was originally envisioned partly because no law gives the NISC and its operational unit, the GSOC, or the Government Security Operation Coordination team, the authority to deal with threats in a timely manner by cutting through sectionalism among the ministries.

In 2012, the GSOC detected 1.08 million illegal access attempts — an average of one every 30 seconds — on government computer systems, up 64 percent from 2010.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for better information security in response to intensifying cybersecurity threats from both at home and abroad.

The national security strategy that was compiled in December also identified computer protection as vital, citing an ever-growing risk of cyberattacks aimed at stealing classified information, disrupting critical infrastructure and obstructing military systems.

Japan and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed in December to jointly develop a mechanism to combat cyberattacks.

Critics say that enhancing the NISC’s legal authority would help build confidence and facilitate information-sharing with international partners, after some governments, including the U.S., welcomed the establishment of the state secrecy law for better information security.

The contentious law was forcefully enacted in December.

Yet challenges will remain over how the NISC can retain cybersecurity experts and practitioners long enough to accumulate expertise even after its role is strengthened.

Government workers typically change their responsibilities and are reassigned every two or three years, just after they start to get a firm grasp on the field.