TOKYO, Japan — To deal with more sophisticated attacks by China, Russia, and others, Japan’s Ministry of Defense aims to expand its cybersecurity team, including by hiring from the private sector. As of the end of fiscal year 2020, the Self-Defense Forces has roughly 660 such personnel. By fiscal 2023, the goal is to have more than 1,000 employees. Hackers have become more skilled in recent years, and cyberattacks used to include computer viruses infiltrating networks and stealing data. On Saturday, firms in the United States and Europe were scrambling to manage a ransomware outbreak that affected American information technology firm Kaseya. Following a similar attack on a US pipeline operator in May, the Swedish Coop grocery store chain was compelled to close all 800 of its outlets. In Japan, as well, the number of attacks has increased. The actions of SDF troops stationed across Japan could be disrupted or stopped if the SDF’s communications network is attacked. National defense-related classified information could also get into the wrong hands. Such circumstances would jeopardize national security. The government wants to improve both the quantity and quality of its cyber defenses. By the conclusion of the current fiscal year, the 660 cybersecurity personnel protecting shared systems for the entire SDF as well as the air, sea, and land forces will be boosted to 800. In order to increase efficiency, a unit that will manage cyber defense for the entire SDF will be established in 2022 by combining units from each branch. A cybersecurity course was introduced at the Ground Self-Defense Force’s engineering school earlier this fiscal year. This course was created to educate the fundamentals of cybersecurity, such as programming languages. In order to prepare for increasingly complex threats, the defense ministry will seek outside help. It hired a cybersecurity supervisory adviser from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, as well as another from leading cybersecurity firm LAC, earlier this month. They will work two to three days a week at the ministry while continuing to work for their separate enterprises. The NTT group employs around 300,000 people. To protect such a vast firm from cyberattacks, each individual must be aware of potential threats, and executives and managers must possess necessary information. The SDF, which has over 200,000 members, is considering establishing a training program based on NTT’s experience in the field. In addition to present training programs that send SDF troops abroad, they will receive cyberattack training from professionals with sophisticated knowledge and skills. The Defense Ministry set aside 20 million yen ($180,000) in the fiscal 2021 budget for the hire of the advisers, however their pay has not been published. Japan is also building up collaboration with the United States, its primary ally. Last month, the Maritime SDF and the US military conducted cyberattack drills on board the Izumo warship. “The US Navy is ahead of us,” the MSDF’s chief of staff, Hiroshi Yamamura, warned. “It was essential that we were able to communicate how we do things and the rationale behind it.” Because warships are always connected to the internet, any flaws in communications at sea raise the chance of a virus infection. A virus can also enter the system through a flash drive used in ship maintenance, potentially affecting the navigation system. In a report released last month, the British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies rated Japan’s cyber capabilities as “Tier Three,” the lowest on a three-grade scale. The research highlighted flaws in the field of national security. Physical attacks by air, sea, and land troops are increasingly being combined with cyber and electromagnetic pulse strikes by China and Russia. China’s cyberattack groups are believed to have 30,000 men. The SDF’s efforts to add additional personnel, increase the capabilities of its cyber units, and collaborate with the US have become more urgent as a result of this./nRead More