Philip Hung Cao

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Japanese Election Results in Positive Strides for Cybersecurity and Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics

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The two Japanese ruling parties, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, won a majority of the 121 contested seats in the election of the Upper House on July 10. The coalition party now has 145 out of 242 total seats. The outcome of the election guarantees the continuation of a stable Abe administration—which will have positive results for the recent momentum in Japan on cybersecurity.

Since December 2012, when Prime Minister Shinzō Abe took office, his administration has been active in expanding bilateral and multilateral cybersecurity cooperation on capacity-building, cyberthreat intelligence sharing, and the protection of critical infrastructure. The Japanese government started cyber dialogues with the U.S. in May 2013; the European Union in October 2014; Israel in November 2014; Estonia, France and the U.K. in December 2014; and Russia in March 2015. Tokyo also started the ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Policy Meeting on Cybersecurity in September 2013 and the ASEAN-Japan Cybercrime Dialogue in May 2014, as well as the trilateral cybersecurity dialogue with China and South Korea in October 2014. These dialogues have strengthened their ties between Japan and other countries because information and communications technology (ICT) now lays the foundation for economy, innovation and national/international security, and cybersecurity is integral part of sound ICT (The Japan-India Cyber Dialogue began in November 2012).

During the election campaign, cybersecurity slipped through unnoticed, as discussions mostly focused on Abenomics and the possibility of the Japanese Constitution revision (to be fair, cybersecurity has not been a primary topic in many elections around the world). Yet, the current Abe administration has made significant progress in cybersecurity policy, public-private partnerships, and international cooperation. The election of the ruling parties means the continuation of Japan’s healthy cybersecurity development. They are crucial elements for the success of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

Since Tokyo was chosen as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in September 2013, the Japanese government has been keen to develop cybersecurity policies to raise the country’s cyber resilience in an effort to make the event successful. It’s a priority for Japan as Olympics are special in terms of the scale of the event and stakeholders and the sensitivity of relationship-building and reputation management. The Cybersecurity Basic Act, issued in November 2014, provided legal authorities to the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity under the Cabinet Secretariat to craft national policies, serve as the point of contact for international collaboration, gather and analyze cyberthreat intelligence, move forward public-private partnerships for the protection of critical infrastructure, and evaluate cybersecurity measures taken by governmental agencies and ministries.

Under the Act, the Cabinet adopted the Cybersecurity Strategy in September 2015 to enhance cybersecurity without thwarting economic growth toward Tokyo 2020. Then, the LDP “Special Mission Committee on IT Strategy” issued the Digital Japan 2016 in May this year to provide the Japanese government with a list of recommendations about how to achieve social welfare by promoting cutting-edge IT technologies, including artificial intelligence and FinTech (rather than regulating the industry, as Japan has tended to do). The Committee believes cybersecurity and IoT security will play a key role to ensure citizens can appreciate the convenience of IT services and companies, ensuring efforts for security will be respected and valued.

The Japanese government reportedly sent delegations to the U.K. and Brazil to learn lessons from London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics about preparing for and running the events, in terms of cybersecurity, and plans to use lessons learned to prepare for Tokyo 2020. Discussions about sensitive information, like prevention tips and threat intelligence, require mutual trust and information assurance—thus, sharing the Olympics’ experiences and relationship-building will be helpful to reinforce Japan’s existing ties with the U.K. and Brazil. The U.K. is going through a difficult time after the national referendum for Brexit. While Japan needs to pay close attention to potential global economic and political consequences, the importance of cybersecurity cooperation between the two countries will not go away.

Japan’s three visions of Tokyo 2020 are “achieving personal best,” “unity in diversity,” and “connecting to tomorrow” to “leave a positive legacy for future generations.” The victory of the ruling parties is expected to allow Japan to continue its important and impactful activities of the last four years. The industry will contribute to those efforts by innovating cybersecurity solutions and increasing cyber resilience in Japan. This would ultimately help the cybersecurity of other countries Japan works with and lead to a good cybersecurity legacy in 2020 and beyond.

[Palo Alto Networks Research Center]

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