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Politics

Japan to tap private sector for cyber defense experts

Defense Ministry considers paying outside contractors over $170,000 a year

Japan's Defense Ministry is planning to outsource some of the nation's cybersecurity needs.

TOKYO -- Japan's Defense Ministry will contract out some of its cybersecurity needs to compensate for weaknesses and better prepare for cyberattacks.

Increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks are hitting critical infrastructure around the world, and the ministry is looking for ways to beef up the Cyber Defense Group in the Self-Defense Forces.

It appears to be on the verge of taking a number of steps, one of which would be to outsource some of its cyber defense operations, such as monitoring and analyzing malware threats. It plans to station within the ministry a team of five to 10 cybersecurity experts hired from the private sector.

The outside contractors and advisers would be employed for up to five years and paid more than 20 million yen ($177,720) a year -- a salary equivalent of what vice ministers make. In general, so-called white hat hackers who probe information systems and point out vulnerabilities would earn several tens of million yen a year.

By the end of this fiscal year, the defense ministry intends to increase the number of the SDF's cyber defense team to 150. It has included expenses in its budget request for fiscal 2019 that would allow it to expand the staff to 220 by the end of March 2020.

Japan lags other countries when it comes to cyber defense. Some analysts believe the U.S. has about 6,000 personnel devoted to protecting the country from cyberattacks. North Korea is thought to have roughly 7,000 cybersecurity staff and China over 100,000.

Cyberspace has become a battlefield. In June 2017, major companies, airports and government departments in Ukraine and other parts of the world were hit by massive cyberattacks. Credit card and subway payment systems were halted.

The Japanese government plans to focus on cyber defense as it reviews its National Defense Program Guidelines, a policy document that outlines defense objectives for the next decade.

The ministry is also considering whether to participate in Locked Shields, one of the world's largest cyber defense exercises, conducted by the Tallinn, Estonia-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence.

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