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Japan to survey 200 million devices in cybersecurity push ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics

AFP-JIJI

The government is preparing a national sweep of some 200 million network-connected devices for cybersecurity lapses ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, an official said Tuesday.

The government-backed National Institute of Information and Communications Technology will start the survey in February to check potential vulnerabilities in items such as routers, webcams and web-connected home appliances.

Officials are rushing to beef up cybersecurity as the nation prepares to host major global events, such as the Rugby World Cup this year, the Group of 20 meetings and the Summer Olympics.

Cybersecurity has become increasingly important as sporting events introduce new technologies for everything from broadcasting to ticketing.

For the study, researchers will take common but unsafe IDs and passwords often exploited by malware — like “abcd,” “1234” or “admin” — to see if devices are readily accessible to hackers, institute spokesman Tsutomu Yoshida said.

The researchers will survey devices with the consent of internet service providers and will mostly examine products that use physical cables to access the internet, he said.

The institute will not conduct expensive and complex operations necessary to check individual mobile devices like smartphones, but the survey may examine routers at cafes, for example, that provide free connectivity to mobile users, Yoshida said.

“Too often, we see webcams, for example, that are already being hacked because security settings are too simple and their images are being seen by outsiders,” Yoshida said. “Sometimes they are put on public websites without the owners being aware.

“We will see, of roughly 200 million products to be surveyed, how many are being exposed” to risks, he said.

The survey will notify ISPs about vulnerable users without breaking into individual devices to view data stored inside, he said.

Major global sporting events like the soccer World Cup and the Olympics face a growing threat from cyberattacks.

At the Pyeongchang Olympic Games last year, for example, internal internet and Wi-Fi systems went down just as the opening ceremonies began.

South Korean officials acknowledged they had been the victim of a cyberattack, without elaborating further.