NHK has learned that the Chinese military is suspected of ordering hackers to attack hundreds of targets in Japan, including the country's space agency and defense-related firms.
Investigative sources say the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, suffered a cyberattack in 2016. Tokyo police have identified a Chinese man who had leased several servers in Japan that were allegedly used in the attack.
The man is said to be a computer engineer in his 30s, and a member of the Chinese Communist Party. He allegedly rented a server five times under false names. Police found that the servers' ID and other credentials were then passed on to a Chinese hacker group, known as "Tick."
The man is no longer in Japan, but police plan to send his case to prosecutors as early as on Tuesday, on suspicion of forging digital records.
Another Chinese man is also said to have rented several servers in Japan using fake identities. This was allegedly under the instruction of a member of unit 61419 -- a bureau in charge of cyberattacks within the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
Tokyo police suspect the PLA instructed Tick to stage cyberattacks in Japan, and that about 200 companies and research institutions were targeted.
A JAXA spokesperson told NHK that the space agency did experience unauthorized access, but suffered no damage, such as data leaks.
Cyber security expert Iwai Hiroki says Tick is one of the private hacker groups that are believed to work under the instructions of China's PLA and national security authorities. He says Tick became active in the early 2000s, and is thought to target aerospace research entities with sophisticated attacks.