Recent Attacks on the US Reveal the Gravity of the Cyber Menace

Due to cyberattacks and terror threats, screenings of Sony’s cinema subsidiary’s new film have been put on hold. U.S. President Obama has put the blame for the attacks on North Korea, and expressed disappointment at Sony’s response. The threat of such cyberattacks that can bypass our borders is increasing, and Japan too is in need of an adequate policy response.

The new film is a comedy about a plan to assassinate North Korea’s First Secretary Kim Jong Un. Following the announcement of the film’s release, Sony suffered a cyberattack, and its systems were dismantled and internal information leaked. Supposedly, correspondence among executives containing discriminatory language was found among the released documents. Terror threats were also issued to theaters planning to screen the film. Due to a succession of theaters cancelling the film, Sony postponed the premiere as well. As President Obama pointed out, such a defeat for freedom of speech is truly regrettable.

In response to this attack, the U.S. government is planning on mounting a suitable response to North Korea. South Korea also suffered a large-scale cyberattack in March of last year, and the government views it as North Korean in origin. North Korea supposedly possesses a specialized hacking squad: The risk to Japan is great. In particular, there is strong suspicion that this most recent attack on the U.S. was carried out via China and other Asian channels. It is impossible for one country alone to prepare for cyberattacks that bypass national borders. Such resistance requires the establishment of international cooperation and a choreographed multinational strategy.

The Japanese government is already in talks on cybersecurity cooperation with the U.S., China, South Korea and others. The guidelines for U.S.-Japanese joint defense, which will be revised next year, will be updated with clear policies on how to counter cyberwarfare. More countries need to start cooperating in this manner. Coordination between government offices like the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication is also crucial to preparing for cyberattacks. In accordance with the “Cybersecurity Basic Law” passed last month enacting cyberspace safety measures, the cabinet will establish a new Office of Cybersecurity Strategy. I have a lot of hope for this office, which should be able to spearhead cyber affairs by coordinating between multiple ministries.

Last year, the final tally of hacks directed at the Japanese government was 5,080,000 — five times that of the previous year. Most of those came from abroad, and considering the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the threat is likely to increase even further.

It’s safe to say that given this recent cyberattack on Sony, it is not just governments and their various departments that must develop a coordinated system of defense, but private industry as well.

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