EICN Tokyo event takeaways: Facing the digital threat

It was a pleasure to host our EICN Tokyo members at the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo last Tuesday, where we discussed this all-important topic from the political, technical and business perspectives.

Special thanks to our speakers the Hon. Takuya Hirai, Japan’s most prominent elected official working on Japan’s capabilities and legislation around cyber defence. Joichi Ito and Cartan McLaughlin, two technology pundits with deep insights into Japan’s digital security, brilliantly complemented the discussion.

For those who missed it, here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Japan’s physical infrastructure, medical institutions, places of commerce, government offices and individuals are potential targets to the growing threat and sophistication of cyber attacks. A cultural reluctance to negotiate with criminals and the embarrassment that comes with a system breach may render affected parties likely to settle, for example by quietly paying a ransomware fee.
  • Boards of directors in companies in Japan have traditionally had limited understanding of digital threats. This is slowly starting to change, but in general, Japan needs to enhance the technical capabilities of key decision makers.
  • Japan can learn from the example of countries like Australia, the US and UK who have succeeded at creating centres of knowledge, where information on cyber security threats and how to counter them is exchanged. But this will need public as much as private commitment, and funding.
  • For many years, Japan has been pressed to catch up with other industrialised countries, especially in the region, on digitalisation. Yet, whether the defences against cyber crime are growing and improving in equal proportion is less clear.
  • Education about cybersecurity matters is of massive importance for companies that operate in Japan. It should not just come from stakeholders and bosses, but should be everyone’s job. JP is to a degree still in a “denial phase” and falling victim to a cyber attack is an enormous cause of embarrassment. It needs to be a standard agenda item at boardroom meetings.

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