Japan develops virus to counter cyber-attacks: But can it be used?

Japan's Ministry of Defense has commissioned Fujitsu to create a 'search and destroy' virus to counter cyber-attacks, but current legislation prevents its use.
Written by Hana Stewart-Smith, Contributor

The Japanese Ministry of Defense has revealed its latest project to tackle hacking: a 'seek and destroy' virus designed to track and disable the source of cyber-attacks.

The project, launched in 2008, cost $2.3 million over three years. Several companies competed for the contract, but Fujitsu was eventually commissioned to develop the new 'cyberweapon'.

The virus has already undergone testing in a closed network environment.

The major feature of the virus is the ability to trace down the source of cyber attacks, including 'spring board' computers used in the attack. The idea is that the 'cyberweapon' will also be able to disable the attacking program and collect information.

According to The Daily Youmuri, the virus is particularly effective against distributed denial-of-service attacks, a common form of cyber attack where hackers bombard websites with enormous volumes of data, forcing sites to shut down.

Unfortunately, Japan's Ministry of Defense still has several hurdles to jump before this project can be utilised.

Current Japanese legislation prohibits an 'offensive' retaliation to cyber-attacks, meaning that the current laws will need to be updated before the cyberweapon could be used.

Equally, creating a virus of this sort would violate a clause banning virus production in the Criminal Code.

Ministry officials said that they presently have no authorisation to use cyberweapons to counter cyber-attacks from abroad, unless they are properly defined in defence laws.

Japan's lack of defence when it comes to cyberattacks has drawn criticism recently. A senior ministry official stated that: "Japan will be the only nation with no effective cyber-attack countermeasures unless the legal issue is settled as soon as possible".

Minoru Tereda, a former parliamentary defense secretary, said it is, "regrettable", adding: "Even if cyberweapon development continues, there will be no way to fully take advantage of it".

Fujitsu has declined to comment on the project, but Ministry has said so far that it is not considering outside applications for the program at this point.


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