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Japan Develops Defensive Cyberweapon Arsenal

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Japanese military plans to deal with an offensive cyber-attack on the country and its infrastructure have been revealed

Japan is reportedly creating its own cyberweapon arsenal to combat the increasing number of well organised cyber-attacks against national interests.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the Japanese government first began the development of its defensive cyberweapon back in 2008. The three year $2.3 million (£1.4m) project was later outsourced to Fujitsu for it to develop a virus, as well as a system to monitor and analyse cyber-attacks.

Counter Measures

According to the newspaper report, the Japanese Defence Ministry had initially been developing the computer virus capable of tracking, identifying and disabling sources of cyber-attacks. Since 2008 the weapon had been tested in a closed network environment, to safeguard against its release into the wild.

The report, citing its sources, said the Japanese cyberweapon is capable of identifying the source of a cyber-attack to a high degree of accuracy. These attacks could include distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, as well as some attacks aimed at stealing information stored in target computers.
Under current laws, the Japanese military is prevented from launching an external attacks, and it seems that this Japanese cyberweapon is also limited by legislation that bans virus production, meaning it cannot launch attacks against external parties. The Japanese military state its cyberweapon is purely a defensive measure.

Keio University Professor Motohiro Tsuchiya, a member of a government panel on information security policy, was quoted in the article as saying that Japan should accelerate anti-cyber-attack weapons development by immediately reconsidering the weapon’s legal definition, as other countries have already launched similar projects.

Fujitsu reportedly declined to comment about the program, citing client confidentiality.

Increased Cyber-Attacks

The Japanese revelation comes amid increasing cyber-attacks not only against government systems, but also the private sector. Many point the finger of blame at Chinese-based hackers for the increase in attacks that seek to steal military and other secrets.

For example back in September 2011, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was hit by an information-stealing Trojan attack. Mitsubishi is Japan’s largest defence contractor and it confirmed that highly sensitive military and industrial data had been stolen.

Other defence contractors, mainly in the United States, have already been hit, including Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications and Northrop Grumman. Unknown attackers have also breached the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Patriot Games

In the UK meanwhile the British government is preparing its cyber defences for the Olympic Games, which will  be protected by ‘unprecedented levels’ of cyber security.

Last June the UK Ministry of Defence created a joint force command unit, that integrated the MoD’s cyber warfare and military intelligence units, and in May, the British government acknowledged it had begun work on a “toolbox” of offensive cyber-weapons to complement its existing defensive capabilities.

The Government has already committed £650 million to build stronger national cyber defences as Britain is under constant attack from hackers, and 1,000 potentially serious offensives were blocked in 2010 alone.

Last October, Major General Jonathan Shaw, the head of the Ministry of Defence’s cyber-security programme, said that hacking by foreign governments and corporations is regularly putting companies out of business, and costs the British economy £27 billion a year.

This came after video footage last August appeared to show Chinese military systems hacking a US target. The footage was spotted by F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen during a Chinese military TV documentary and the offending video was quickly replaced with other material.