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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

Ministry, sites abroad hit by cyber-attacks

Computers infected but no classified info lost: Fujimura


Staff writer

Cyber-attackers targeted the Foreign Ministry and several overseas diplomatic missions with viruses delivered by email, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura revealed to reporters Wednesday.

It's likely some of the computers at the missions were infected in the latest in a string of cybersecurity breaches, following attacks on the Diet and major defense contractors.

"At present I am not aware of any classified information having leaked," Fujimura said, adding that the government was collecting information from ministries and other institutions on the state of their IT security.

"The Foreign Ministry has been working to boost its surveillance system since September," he said.

An official at the Foreign Ministry's Information and Communications Division acknowledged that while the ministry and missions were common targets of cyber-attacks, the number of spam mails drastically increased in May and June.

However, there have been no confirmed reports of leaks of classified information, the official said. The computers under attack were connected to open networks, while all classified materials and cables are transferred via a closed network, and remain safe, he said.

The official said that many of the some 230 overseas missions have been targets of cyber-attacks, and they are constantly monitoring and dealing with any problems that may arise.

Meanwhile, computer servers at the Lower House and the personal computers of lawmakers have also reportedly been compromised.

According to reports, a Trojan horse program sent passwords and other information to a China-based server.

The Asahi Shimbun has reported that the IDs and passwords of all 480 lawmakers and their secretaries may have been stolen. Though the attacks began in July, they were not reported to security officials until the end of August, the newspaper said. In response, the Lower House formed an investigative headquarters Tuesday to look into the breach.

The report follows earlier news of cyber-attacks launched on major defense contractors Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., as well as the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies (SJAC), to which both contractors belong.

During an afternoon press conference, Fujimura said the recent string of cyber-attacks targeting both government and public institutions should be classified depending on their level of severity, from the common spam mails sent to computers, to attacks that target important classified information.

Fujimura said he considered the recent attacks to be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, and said further investigation was necessary to deem whether classified information was leaked.

To counteract the recent increase in such attacks and to strengthen Japan's cybersecurity, the trade ministry Tuesday set up a framework for sharing information among both government and private institutions.

Masayuki Nakatani, manager at the Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center, said defending completely against cyber-attacks is a difficult task, as the methods have become increasingly sophisticated in proportion to the value of the information being targeted.



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