Tokyo: Japan has been deepening cooperation with foreign authorities to crack down on cyber crimes since the country’s National Police Agency deployed personnel to focus on the effort a year ago.
The NPA established the Cyber Affairs Bureau and the National Cyber Unit on April 1 last year.
The Cyber Affairs Bureau, which was created through the integration of cyber-related departments in several bureaus, is tasked with analyzing cyberattack methods.
The National Cyber Unit is responsible for investigating serious cybercrimes, including those that damage national institutions and critical infrastructure such as power plants, as well as attacks from overseas.
Japanese participation in international joint investigations has advanced since the reform, people familiar with the matter said.
Previously, Japanese police were reluctant to respond to cybercrimes involving foreign attackers as it was difficult to address them. In addition, there are technical and language barriers among regional police in the country.
Under the new system, international inquiries about cybercrimes that had previously been done by prefectural police are now done solely by the Cyber Affairs Bureau, a change that led to proper initial investigations and better gathering of information.
The reform has also helped the NPA attract talent from around the country, resulting in the development of a data recovery tool that is effective against some ransomware viruses, which encrypt data and demand ransoms.
In Japan, where police have limited investigative powers, information-gathering is a crucial tool for authorities. If such information can provide clues for overseas authorities in their investigations and countermeasures, it will become easier for Japan to participate in joint investigations.
“By sharing damage information with foreign authorities, we can swiftly grasp the overall picture of incidents and identify suspects,” a person familiar with the situation said.
The NPA is currently involved in international joint investigations into ransomware cases in an effort to apprehend suspects and destroy cybercrime networks.
“Although spectacular results have yet to be announced, initial goals such as unifying the liaison for international measures and providing technical support to prefectural police have been achieved,” said Harumichi Yuasa, professor of information law at Meiji University in Tokyo who serves as a director of the Japan Cybercrime Control Center.
“The next hurdle is over the ability to decrypt and analyze encrypted information,” Yuasa said. “The private sector has high technical capability, so the public and private sectors need to work together to address this.”