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Japan risks losing trust of US, other allies over its ‘serious’ cybersecurity flaws, minister warns

Japan’s foreign minister has called for urgent action to bolster national cybersecurity following alerts from Washington that Tokyo’s lax defences are giving Beijing access to sensitive diplomatic communications, an issue that risks eroding trust with allies who may no longer trust the Japanese government with their secrets.

“Enhancing our capabilities to address cybersecurity is a very serious matter,” she added.

The US government warned Tokyo that computer networks linking government ministries and diplomatic missions overseas had been breached by Chinese hackers. Japan was apparently not aware of the breach until informed by the US, which declined to provide information on how it learned of the attacks.

The fact that the NSA’s chief travelled to Tokyo in 2020 to communicate Washington’s concerns underlined the scale of the problem, experts said, as well as alarm that confidential data that the US was sharing with Japan was being leaked to China.

Tokyo subsequently agreed to solve vulnerabilities in its computer communications at five critical government agencies: the foreign and defence ministries, the National Police Agency, the Public Security Intelligence Agency and the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office.

The Japanese government has remained tight-lipped on the measures it has implemented to combat cyberattacks, which could originate in Russia and North Korea as well as China, but Kamikawa’s comments indicate that the problem has not been solved.

The improvements have been shared with the US, although the Yomiuri quoted a US official as saying that Japan’s measures had been “too little, too late”.

“This is not a new issue, it has been going on for some years now, and it is clear that Japan is behind where it should