Japan has run its first large-scale cyber-security exercise to prepare for the 2020 Olympics

Ethical hackers test Japan's cyber-defence

Japan has run a large-scale cyber-security exercise, simulating a massive attack on its government departments to spot weaknesses prior to the 2020 Olympics.

Inspired by the drill London organised in the run up to the 2012 games, Japan has invited about 50 cyber security experts to its emergency response centre in Tokyo to test Japan’s cyber preparedness.

Seconded by further more than a hundred of ethical hackers offsite, they have launched a simulated attack on Japan’s 21 state ministries and agencies and ten industry associations.

"It's not that we haven't put effort into cyber-security, but we are certainly behind the US," said Ichita Yamamoto, the cabinet minister in charge of IT policy, who is leading the effort to boost cyber-security.

The exercise simulated a phishing attack, where government officials or businesses opened up their own servers to a computer virus by visiting a fake website.

"Cyber-attacks are becoming more subtle, sophisticated and international, and strengthening Japan's response to them has become a critical issue," said the Japanese government's spokesman, Yoshihide Suga.

The drill marked the first occasion when Japan has worked together across the government and businesses to counter the threat of hackers. In Japan, the National Police Agency shares the responsibility for cyber-security together with four ministries.

Japan expects the first summer Olympics organised in the country since 1964 will help boost economy. However, the country fears it could entice cyber-criminals to disrupt the event.

Even without any prominent international events, attacks by foreign and domestic hackers against the Japanese government doubled last year.

In a blog-post published ahead of the exercise, Suga wrote governmental websites have to fend off some sort of a cyber-attack about twice every minute.

Cyber-attacks against a closed Japanese network designed to lure and measure hacking increased last year to 12.8 billion times from 7.8 billion the previous year, according to its operator, the government-affiliated National Institute of Information and Communications.

Japan has also been increasingly concerned about possible industrial cyber espionage.

Earlier this month, IT minister Yamamoto summoned the first meeting of cyber-security officials from the ministries and police agency, joined by outside experts, to outline a unified approach to Japan's online security.

Yamamoto said his group will begin making recommendations by the summer. They might include encouraging more students to take up computer science or developing security software in Japan to guard against hackers rather than relying on imported products.

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