Threat actors have infiltrated Japan’s National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC) for as much as nine months. The intruders
China-linked hackers may have gained access to sensitive data, according to three government and private sector sources familiar with the situation, reported the Financial Times.
The intrusion began in the autumn of 2022 and was discovered in June. NISC disclosed a potential security breach involving personal data associated with email communications. Threat actors likely compromised the email account of one of the agency members. NISC sent email notifications to both domestic and international private and governmental partners, cautioning them about the possibility of data compromise.
The Japanese authorities are under scrutiny by the US and regional allies due to the forthcoming “deeper military co-operation”.
“The discovery of the incident and the sensitivity of the target comes at a time of unprecedented scrutiny of Japan’s vulnerability to cyber attack.” reported the Financial Times. “Tokyo is embarking on deeper military co-operation with the US and regional allies, including work on a joint fighter project with the UK and Italy, in which top secret technological data will be exchanged.”
US and UK experts are skeptical about the ability of Japan to protect confidential data. In August, the Washington Post reported a massive attack on Japan’s defence networks by China-linked cyberspies that took place in late 2020. In July, The Port of Nagoya, the largest port in Japan, suffered a ransomware attack that severely impacted its operations.
An NISC official announced that the investigation into the incident has been concluded and that only information on an unspecified agency email system was compromised.
“There is always a small element of doubt, but given the style of attack and the nature of the target itself, we can say with almost complete certainty that this originated with a state actor, and that the actor was most probably China,” a person familiar with the incident told the Financial Times.
Another person familiar with the attack blamed China for the intrusion.
The Chinese government denied any involvement in the attack and blamed Japan allies as responsible for the attack.
“WikiLeaks previously disclosed that the US carried out cyber espionage against Japan, including cabinet members,” China’s foreign ministry said. “Could they [Japan’s cyber experts] be focusing their attention in the wrong direction?” In 2015, the WikiLeaks website published documents allegedly showing the US spied on Japanese cabinet officials, banks and companies.”
(SecurityAffairs – hacking, NISC)