Japan's National Police Agency on Wednesday announced a plan to upgrade its National Cyber Unit to a department to step up its fight against cybercrimes and cyberattacks.

Under the plan, included in its organizational reform request for fiscal 2024 that will start next April, the NPA will also set up a special investigation division and a planning and analysis division in the new department to boost investigative cooperation with foreign authorities.

The National Cyber Unit was established in April last year and has cooperated with foreign investigations into ransomware attacks, in which data on computers are encrypted and held for a ransom, contributing to the indictment of two individuals in the United States this year.

In Japan, the unit has analyzed evidence of money laundering using crypto assets in telephone scam cases.

An NPA official highlighted the need to bolster the agency's cyber-related investigation framework, with international investigations improving in both quality and quantity.

"Upgrading the (cyber) unit to a department will ensure a smoother communication with foreign authorities," the official said.

In its budget request for the year from next April, the NPA has included ¥5.6 billion for cyber-related costs, up ¥1.5 billion from the previous year.

Of the costs, ¥4.3 billion will be used to improve the agency's cyber-related response capabilities, including by procuring analytical equipment.

The NPA plans to spend ¥687 million on staff training and research into analysis methods. The agency hopes to secure ¥555 million for costs to enhance cooperation with the private sector and international collaborations.

The agency's total general-account budget request for fiscal 2024 totaled ¥333.9 billion, up ¥13.1 billion.