The NSA discovered the intrusion in 2020—we don’t know how—and alerted the Japanese. The Washington Post has the story:
The hackers had deep, persistent access and appeared to be after anything they could get their hands on—plans, capabilities, assessments of military shortcomings, according to three former senior U.S. officials, who were among a dozen current and former U.S. and Japanese officials interviewed, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
The 2020 penetration was so disturbing that Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, and Matthew Pottinger, who was White House deputy national security adviser at the time, raced to Tokyo. They briefed the defense minister, who was so concerned that he arranged for them to alert the prime minister himself.
Beijing, they told the Japanese officials, had breached Tokyo’s defense networks, making it one of the most damaging hacks in that country’s modern history.
Posted on August 14, 2023 at 7:02 AM •
Symantec is reporting on an APT group linked to China, named Cicada. They have been attacking organizations in Japan and elsewhere.
Cicada has historically been known to target Japan-linked organizations, and has also targeted MSPs in the past. The group is using living-off-the-land tools as well as custom malware in this attack campaign, including a custom malware—Backdoor.Hartip—that Symantec has not seen being used by the group before. Among the machines compromised during this attack campaign were domain controllers and file servers, and there was evidence of files being exfiltrated from some of the compromised machines.
The attackers extensively use DLL side-loading in this campaign, and were also seen leveraging the ZeroLogon vulnerability that was patched in August 2020.
Interesting details about the group’s tactics.
Posted on November 20, 2020 at 6:05 AM •
Asa ika means “morning squid” in Japanese.
As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.
Read my blog posting guidelines here.
Posted on September 4, 2020 at 4:53 PM •
The Japanese government is going to run penetration tests against all the IoT devices in their country, in an effort to (1) figure out what’s insecure, and (2) help consumers secure them:
The survey is scheduled to kick off next month, when authorities plan to test the password security of over 200 million IoT devices, beginning with routers and web cameras. Devices in people’s homes and on enterprise networks will be tested alike.
The Japanese government’s decision to log into users’ IoT devices has sparked outrage in Japan. Many have argued that this is an unnecessary step, as the same results could be achieved by just sending a security alert to all users, as there’s no guarantee that the users found to be using default or easy-to-guess passwords would change their passwords after being notified in private.
However, the government’s plan has its technical merits. Many of today’s IoT and router botnets are being built by hackers who take over devices with default or easy-to-guess passwords.
Hackers can also build botnets with the help of exploits and vulnerabilities in router firmware, but the easiest way to assemble a botnet is by collecting the ones that users have failed to secure with custom passwords.
Securing these devices is often a pain, as some expose Telnet or SSH ports online without the users’ knowledge, and for which very few users know how to change passwords. Further, other devices also come with secret backdoor accounts that in some cases can’t be removed without a firmware update.
I am interested in the results of this survey. Japan isn’t very different from other industrialized nations in this regard, so their findings will be general. I am less optimistic about the country’s ability to secure all of this stuff—especially before the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Posted on January 28, 2019 at 1:40 PM •
The Intercept has a long article on Japan’s equivalent of the NSA: the Directorate for Signals Intelligence. Interesting, but nothing really surprising.
The directorate has a history that dates back to the 1950s; its role is to eavesdrop on communications. But its operations remain so highly classified that the Japanese government has disclosed little about its work even the location of its headquarters. Most Japanese officials, except for a select few of the prime minister’s inner circle, are kept in the dark about the directorate’s activities, which are regulated by a limited legal framework and not subject to any independent oversight.
Now, a new investigation by the Japanese broadcaster NHK—produced in collaboration with The Intercept—reveals for the first time details about the inner workings of Japan’s opaque spy community. Based on classified documents and interviews with current and former officials familiar with the agency’s intelligence work, the investigation shines light on a previously undisclosed internet surveillance program and a spy hub in the south of Japan that is used to monitor phone calls and emails passing across communications satellites.
The article includes some new documents from the Snowden archive.
Posted on May 21, 2018 at 9:54 AM •
Lessons from Japan’s response to Aum Shinrikyo:
Yet what’s as remarkable as Aum’s potential for mayhem is how little of it, on balance, they actually caused. Don’t misunderstand me: Aum’s crimes were horrific, not merely the terrible subway gassing but their long history of murder, intimidation, extortion, fraud, and exploitation. What they did was unforgivable, and the human cost, devastating. But at no point did Aum Shinrikyo represent an existential threat to Japan or its people. The death toll of Aum was several dozen; again, a terrible human cost, but not an existential threat. At no time was the territorial integrity of Japan threatened. At no time was the operational integrity of the Japanese government threatened. At no time was the day-to-day operation of the Japanese economy meaningfully threatened. The threat to the average Japanese citizen was effectively nil.
Just as important was what the Japanese government and people did not do. They didn’t panic. They didn’t make sweeping changes to their way of life. They didn’t implement a vast system of domestic surveillance. They didn’t suspend basic civil rights. They didn’t begin to capture, torture, and kill without due process. They didn’t, in other words, allow themselves to be terrorized. Instead, they addressed the threat. They investigated and arrested the cult’s leadership. They tried them in civilian courts and earned convictions through due process. They buried their dead. They mourned. And they moved on. In every sense, it was a rational, adult, mature response to a terrible terrorist act, one that remained largely in keeping with liberal democratic ideals.
Posted on June 21, 2013 at 6:25 AM •
Old—but recently released—document discussing the bugging of the Russian embassy in 1940. The document also mentions bugging the embassies of France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Posted on October 27, 2010 at 3:24 PM •
I’ve written about this sort of thing before:
A robber bored a hole through the wall of jewelry shop and walked off with about 200 luxury watches worth 300 million yen ($3.2 million) in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district, police said Saturday.
From Secrets and Lies, p. 318:
Threat modeling is, for the most part, ad hoc. You think about the threats until you can’t think of any more, then you stop. And then you’re annoyed and surprised when some attacker thinks of an attack you didn’t. My favorite example is a band of California art thieves that would break into people’s houses by cutting a hole in their walls with a chainsaw. The attacker completely bypassed the threat model of the defender. The countermeasures that the homeowner put in place were door and window alarms; they didn’t make a difference to this attack.
One of the important things to consider in threat modeling is whether the attacker is looking for any victim, or is specifically targeting you. If the attacker is looking for any victim, then countermeasures that make you a less attractive target than other people are generally good enough. If the attacker is specifically targeting you, then you need to consider a greater level of security.
Posted on January 14, 2010 at 12:43 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.