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Can SDF be used to fend cyber-attacks on nukes?

 May 9, 2014

Gov't looks to mobilize SDF to defend nuclear plants from cyber-attacks



The government is working out rules on mobilizing Self-Defense Force (SDF) troops to defend key infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants and communications facilities, from large-scale cyber-attacks, government sources said.

Officials are considering whether to authorize the SDF to send viruses to computers used for such attacks to cause the machines to malfunction.

The Defense Ministry launched about a 90-member anti-cyber-attack unit at the end of March to maintain the chain of command should a cyber-attack be launched on the SDF and prevent such an attack from adversely affecting its operations. However, the team is only allowed to defend a computer network system connecting the ministry with SDF bases across the country.

Since the SDF's activities rely largely on infrastructure, such as electric power grids as well as transportation and communications systems, a growing number of government officials are demanding that the SDF be empowered to defend such key infrastructure as well.

It is difficult to ascertain whether cyber-attacks have been launched by hackers in Japan or by other countries.

Washington has repeatedly blamed Chinese forces for its involvement in cyber-attacks on U.S. government organizations.

As U.S., Chinese and British forces have capabilities to launch cyber-attacks, questions have been raised within the Japanese government as to whether the SDF, which is supposed to defend Japan, should be allowed to only defend itself from cyber-attacks.

In response to these opinions, the government has begun working out criteria for judging whether cyber-attacks on Japan constitute military attacks, for which Tokyo can exercise the right to self-defense permitted under the war-renouncing Constitution.

Furthermore, the government is studying whether counterattacks, such as sending viruses to computers used to launch cyber-attacks on infrastructure in Japan, would overstep the boundary of self-defense permitted under the Constitution.

The government had initially explored the possibility of constantly monitoring nuclear power stations and other facilities to prevent an attack. However, such surveillance has proven unrealistic because such activities could violate the constitutionally guaranteed secrecy of communication, and would require a massive number of personnel. Therefore, the government is working out criteria for responding after cyber-attacks are launched.

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