Protection of cyberspace

Countering attacks on computer networks has become an important security issue for governments. On July 15, the U.S. Defense Department announced a strategy to harden American computer systems against cyberattacks.

The Pentagon established U.S. Cyber Command in 2010 for daily operation and defense of its information networks. In a significant step, Washington designated cyberspace as another “operational domain” protected by the U.S. military in the same way it defends land, sea and air.

Japan’s Defense Ministry in its defense white paper released on Aug. 2 said that stable utilization of “international public goods” such as oceans, outer space and cyberspace has become a new issue and stressed that cyberattacks by foreign governments or militaries could have a grave impact on national security.

On Aug. 3, U.S. cyberspace security company McAfeee reported that a single perpetrator had carried out cyberattacks on 72 targets for the past five years. The targets included the governments of the United States, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada, international organizations such as the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee and defense industry companies in the U.S. and Britain. It suggested that a foreign government is likely responsible for the attacks.

Japan has not been free from cyberattacks. In January 2000, websites of government ministries and agencies suffered write-overs. After the September 2010 Senkaku incident, in which Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese trawler after he rammed his ship into two Japan Coast Guard patrol ships in Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, a hackers’ group in China predicted a cyberattack on Japan. It is believed that it carried out a limited attack afterward.

Japan has been rather slow in taking full-scale measures to protect its cyberspace against attacks probably because it has not experienced a major cyberattack that could undermine its national security.

But Japan can be a target of such an attack at any time. It may have to step up protection of its cyberspace by deepening information exchange and other cooperation with the U.S.