Sunday, August 7, 2011

Strengthen defense against cyber-attacks

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan must catch up quickly and appropriately with the development of information and communication technology to defend its national security.

The Defense Ministry's white paper for 2011, which was approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, emphasized the importance of strengthening the nation's defense against cyber-attacks on the government and Self-Defense Forces because they could "significantly affect national security."

Previous white papers, in a chapter titled, "Issues in the International Community," ranked cyber-attacks as the third-biggest threat after the transfer and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and international terrorism. However, cyber-attacks were bumped up to the top of the list in this year's white paper, which is officially called "Defense of Japan 2011."

Cyber-attacks include data falsification or theft of information via unauthorized access to information and communication networks, and clogging network functions through the simultaneous transmission of large quantities of data.

A computer virus recently penetrated U.S. military networks, creating the very real risk that information could be leaked.

The U.S. Defense Department last month announced a new security strategy that considers cyber-attacks as a possible act of war and does not rule out military retaliation if key computer systems are targeted. The Pentagon also pointed out that many of the cyber-attacks on U.S. computers were launched by hackers in China.


Japan ready for cyber-attacks?

Is Japan's defense against cyber-attacks sufficient? In May last year, the government compiled a cybersecurity strategy, and conducted the first simulation exercise based on this in March. The branches of the Self-Defense Forces have just begun creating a joint cybersecurity unit.

The SDF should hire experts from the private sector for this unit, enhance research sections and introduce the latest countermeasures. It also must cooperate with the United States and other countries concerned, and improve its defense capability against cyber-attacks.

Meanwhile, the white paper said China's military power is "a matter of concern for the region and the international community, including Japan." It also showed an increased sense of vigilance against China. "In regards to issues of conflicting interest with surrounding countries, including Japan, China's response has been criticized as assertive," the white paper said. "There is a concern over its future direction."


China, N. Korea intl issues

This is a reasonable perception of China's military power, considering incidents such as the collisions last year between a Chinese fishing boat and Japan Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands, Chinese military helicopters flying abnormally close to Maritime Self-Defense Force ships several times, and friction between China and Vietnam over territorial issues in the South China Sea.

It is essential to make bilateral or multilateral rules to control and resolve international maritime disputes.

The international community also needs to convince Beijing through military exchanges and dialogue that observing international rules and enhancing military transparency would erase international concerns about the possible threat from China, and serve its own national interests.

Regarding North Korea, the white paper said that nation's "military behavior...constitutes a serious destabilizing factor for the entire East Asian region." The report mentioned Pyongyang's disclosure of uranium enrichment facilities and development of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile called Musudan.

Japan must stay alert and closely monitor North Korea's military activities to ensure the Japan-U.S. alliance deterrent functions. It is also necessary to continue diplomatic efforts with participants in the six-nation talks to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile development programs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2011)

(Aug. 4, 2011)

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