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Japan Targets Hacker Attacks

The number of cyber-attacks in Japan is surging. The government is taking steps to stamp out hacking, both within the country and from overseas. Chie Yamagishi reports.

The government has set up a center for cyber-security in the Cabinet Office. They named it the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity, or NISC. Its members will look at ways to strengthen the country's ability to gather information on suspected cyber-attacks. That includes staying on top of the latest anti-hacking software to ensure that the country's servers remain safe from unauthorized access.

Speaking at a ceremony, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he wants members to make every effort to protect the lives, properties, and well-being of people in Japan by strengthening cyber-security.

It seems no one is safe from cyber-attacks anymore. In fiscal 2013 alone, more than 5 million cases were reported in Japan. That's nearly a fivefold increase from a year earlier.

Hacking is now a global problem. At the end of 2014, a movie about a fictional plot to kill North Korea's leader led to a cyber-attack against Sony Pictures.

The US government accused North Korea of being involved, something leaders in Pyongyang deny. Nevertheless, the incident developed into a diplomatic dispute and Washington eventually slapped more sanctions on the North.

Masayuki Hatta from Surugadai University, an expert on cyberspace, says a major attack could be far more damaging than before because the internet is now part of society's infrastructure.

Hatta points out that software now controls many devices, including automobiles, so taking control of these devices can cause physical harm. In this sense, he says, the threat lies not only in the virtual world, but also in the real world.

Hatta points out that the government needs to recruit the best available talent, including independent computer geeks, if it wants the new cyber-security center to be effective.

But he also warns against the possible overgrowth of the institution. "It's true that we are facing the risk of cyber-war," he says, "but sometimes strengthening this kind of cyber-security institution can lead to violations of people's privacy, or even to control over people. We need to keep in check the overconcentration of power in the government's hands."

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