The government has written the final draft of a cyber security strategy. It plans to officially adopt the strategy in June after receiving public comments on the proposal. The draft calls for analysis of communications content by telecommunication carriers if necessary, the establishment of a cyber defense unit within the Self-Defense Forces and the establishment of a cyber security center within the government in 2015 as the nation’s highest-level organization to deal with cyber attacks, which include the theft and destruction of data stored in computer systems at government organizations and companies, and the paralysis and destruction of such computer systems.
The government’s move to deal with cyber attacks deserves praise. But the draft’s call for the analysis of communications by telecommunication carriers could impinge upon Article 21, Section 2 of the Constitution, which says that “the secrecy of any means of communication” should not be violated.
The government should proceed with utmost care to ensure that this constitutional provision is not undermined. It also should make sure that efforts by various public and private organizations to cope with cyber attacks are coordinated to maximize their effect.
Technically it is possible for telecommunications carriers such as providers to detect targeted e-mails to a certain extent. In targeted e-mail attacks, an e-mail containing a file into which a virus is embedded is sent to a computer user. When the e-mail is opened, the computer becomes infected by the virus and data in the computer are uploaded. The draft envisages telecommunications carriers examining e-mails infected by viruses and calls for the preservation of communication logs for possible analysis in the event of a cyber crime investigation.
Currently telecommunications carriers cannot examine e-mails containing viruses without the consent of users, although they can issue warnings in advance to prevent cyber attacks.
Analysis of communications will be indispensable in the investigation of cyber crimes. But secrecy of communications as guaranteed by the Constitution is closely linked with the freedom of expression, also guaranteed by the Constitution.
Wide discussions should be held on how to ensure effective investigations while safeguarding the secrecy of communications.
The draft calls for setting up a cyber defense unit within the SDF to cope with cyber attacks that are carried out as part of an attack on the nation. The government should work out detailed rules on what conditions the proposed unit can take action. It should take care so that the unit will operate strictly following the nation’s traditional defense-only defense posture.
It is also necessary for the government to allocate enough resources to nurture a sufficient number of cyber security experts, and to develop and install advanced equipment to deal with cyber attacks.