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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC



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Growing Cyber Threat

Jun. 5, 2015

With cyber-attacks on the rise, officials in Japan and the United States are seeking ways to fight back. Japan’s pension service was recently hacked resulting in one of the biggest thefts ever of personal data from a public institution. US officials, meanwhile, say hackers may have stolen the personal data of up to 4 million federal workers. Security experts on both sides of the Pacific are trying to figure out who breached these government computer systems and how.

The attack on the system managing Japan’s pension programs compromised the personal data of about 1.25 million people.

"We offer our deep apologies and truly regret what happened,” said Toichiro Mizushima, president of Japan’s Pension Service.

Experts with the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology say hackers launched about 25 billion attacks on Japanese firms and government agencies last year. And it’s not just large organizations that are at risk. Any product that features Internet connectivity can be susceptible to hackers. Everything from cars to coffee makes use the Internet. Industry experts say 50-billion electronic devices will be connected to the Internet in 5 years’ time. This represents a big target for hackers.

Internet-connected cars are already on the market. Owners can use their smartphones to lock or unlock doors and operate the air conditioning. But if hackers can hijack the car’s computer system, they could cause an accident. As the threat of cybercrime grows, the market for cyber security is increasing. The head of cybersecurity for one major firm says his company is moving from reactive to pro-active products and services.

"We’re doing our utmost to protect customers by quickly analyzing information about cyber-attacks taking place anywhere in the world, said Tadanori Yamai, manager of a cybersecurity section at NEC.

Hiroshi Ito, a cyber-security expert joins Aki Shibuya and Sho Beppu in the studio.

Shibuya: Dr. Ito, can you tell us about the trends in cyber threats? What do we have to worry about?

Ito: Up until now, cyber threats are about the so-called pranks. Cyber-attackers do their job for themselves, for pleasure, and then there are cyber-crimes for money. But now I have been afraid of one thing, a new threat, it is cyber-terrorism, cyber-terrorists harm the people or infrastructure. For example: gas pipelines or waterworks. Furthermore they can attack the lives of people with cyber-technology.

Israel has been hit by hackers over the years and is now a leading supplier of cyber security. The country is the second biggest exporter of security products after the US. And Israel’s leaders are trying to make the business even bigger.

Researchers from the public and private sector have met on the CyberSpark campus in southern Israel in an effort to develop innovative cyber security products. The 100,000-square-meter campus includes a university, and offices of international corporations.

A European communications company is funding a laboratory for Ben Gurion University. 100 students use the lab to research for the corporate sector.

"We mainly focus on cybersecurity and data analysis,” said Professor Yuval Elovici, a director of Telekom Innovation Laboratories at Ben Gurion University.

Israel’s military chiefs are taking an interest and plan to move an intelligence unit onto the campus.

A cyber security technology fair in Tel Aviv attracted visitors from more than 40 countries. The world is paying great attention to the fruits of enterprises like these. Ofer Ben-Noon, CEO of Argus Security, was at the fair showing his company’s security system for connected cars. He says he realized automobiles were integrating more and more technology which could make them a target for malicious hackers.

"The world of connected cars is on a big change in the last couple of years,” Ben-Noon said. “And it is certainly going to change a lot in the next decade."

Ben-Noon used his experience with a cyber unit of Israel’s Defense Forces to create a sophisticated risk-analysis work and response system.

"We have the ability to understand there is an attack and to block it in real time,” Ben-Noon said. “We have solutions that are software only. And we have the ability to enhance that with added hardware."

People like Ben-Noon and the researchers of CyberSpark know reactive security won’t be enough when cars or houses are at risk. But they’re working hard to figure out where the threats will come from and how to stop them.

Beppu: Dr. Ito, Israel is at the forefront of cyber security. Is that because it’s a military necessity?

Ito: Yes. Israel is surrounded by enemies, Arab nations. So they must defend themselves by using force. But now, one other important thing is cyber-technology. Nowadays modern armies use cyber-technology, so Israel found it is important to use cyber-technology and it has become very skilled at it.

Beppu: Looking forward, every country is going to need more computer security. How can we make sure we’re safe from such attacks?

Ito: I think three ways. One is technology. Unfortunately now, the cyber-attacker is stronger than the cyber-defender. So we must develop new technology for defense. Next is about human things. There are many people who don’t have cyber-literacy. So we must educate people about the cyber sense. Lastly, a very important problem is about laws. The internet is a global system so we must have international laws about cyber security, but there are no good laws just now so we must make strong international laws.