Japan mulls steps to counter surge in cyber attacks on government sites

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan has seen a surge in cases of irregular access to government computer systems and cyberattacks on operators of critical social infrastructure, and Tokyo is considering ways to respond, a top official said on Thursday.

Japan is striving to harness information technology to help revive the economy as well as looking to bolster cyber security in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the fiscal year to March 31 there were 5.08 million cases of irregular access to central government information systems, including outright cyberattacks, up from 1.08 million cases the previous year, Japan's first white paper on cyber security showed on Thursday.

The number of cyber attacks on power firms, railroad operators, financial institutions and other social infrastructure operators came to 133 cases in the year, compared with 76 cases a year earlier.

Yasuhiko Taniwaki, deputy director-general of the government's National Information Security Centre, told a news conference that Tokyo may have lessons to learn from the London 2012 Olympics organisers.

"During the London Olympic Games, I've heard the official web site sustained 212 million attacks in the space of two weeks, and that there was some information regarding potential cyber attacks on power facilities," Taniwaki said.

"Measures for the Olympic Games would be very effective steps for ordinary times, as well," he added.

Taniwaki said the rise in cyber attacks in the last year was largely in line with the global trend and was not specific to Japan.

As part of efforts to better tackle information security threats, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government next year plans to launch a cyber security strategy headquarters that would report directly to the cabinet and work closely with the National Security Council.

Asked about who was behind the cyber attacks, Taniwaki said, citing an announcement earlier this year by Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department, that attacks by Chinese people or people who understood Chinese were on the rise.