• Kyodo

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Municipalities are struggling to reorganize their information technology systems to guard against possible data leaks ahead of the government’s implementation of a new ID card system in January.

Under the My Number system, local governments plan to assign every resident in Japan a number by October that will be used for both taxation and social security management.

However, a recent survey found deepening concern that some cities, towns and villages are ill-equipped to implement measures that meet the government’s standards due to their size, insufficient budgets and lack of manpower.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications carried out the survey in June after it emerged in May that the nation’s pension system had been hacked on an unprecedented scale, with municipalities urged to beef up security as early as possible.

Municipalities are coordinating with the government to speed up the work required to integrate the two systems.

Notification of the numbers will be sent to every household by mail, with municipalities also able to distribute My Number cards with photos.

In the ministry’s survey, municipalities were asked whether they had separated the mission-critical systems — the systems whose failure would result in the failure of business operations — from the information systems connecting the Internet.

They were also questioned about what measures were being taken to prevent data breaches, as well as whether such steps could be implemented in time for the start of the program in January. Separately, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare set out to conduct a survey of municipalities in July.

A top-ranking official from the ministry of internal affairs said it had no plans to release the survey results.

But according to one Tokyo municipality, in many cases they had been unable to separate the mission-critical system from the information system and have found it difficult to raise the funds necessary for the expensive changes.

There is also a shortage of experts who can give advice about information management systems.

In June, an association of prefectural governors made a strong request for the central government to provide funds for the project.

According to computer security company F-Secure, which conducted its own survey of municipalities in May and June, only about 8 percent of 655 respondents said they had completed security measures for the new system.

In a government survey conducted in January, 32.6 percent of respondents expressed concern that the My Number system could lead to data leaks and infringement of privacy. Another 32.3 percent feared they could suffer actual financial or other damage through data theft.

In the U.S., where a social security number system is in place, cases of identity fraud are frequent, while South Korea has also experienced massive leaks of personal data held by public authorities.

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