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The Computer Corner Japan’s New Cyber Security Chief Shows Worrying Computer and Technology Ignorance

Yoshitaka-Sakurada

By Charles Miller

Last week, this column reported the ongoing cyberattack responsible for shutting down newspaper printing plants in California and also revisited the cyberattack that crippled Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014. When disastrous cyberattacks of these kinds occur, we all believe that experienced computer network engineers, working together with skilled forensic investigators, are quickly on the scene, working to resolve the problem and determine its cause. At least, that is what we hope.

Some news that came out of Tokyo last year was not so reassuring: The government of Japan is in the midst of revising its cyber security laws in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Japan is a country widely seen as being one of the most technologically innovative in the world, so if any country should be up to the task of safeguarding the Olympic Games from disruption by cyberattack, is should be the Japanese.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe recently appointed 68-year-old Yoshitaka Sakurada as head of the government’s cyber security office. Some doubts started to emerge among those who were aware that Sakurada does not speak English, given that so little of the world’s technical discourse takes place in Japanese and so much in English. This raised questions about how difficult this might make it for Sakurada to supervise the overhaul of complex cyber security legislation.

Then, in November, during testimony before the Japanese Diet, lawmakers were understandably baffled to hear Sakurada admit he did not type, had never used a computer, and did not know how. By way of explanation, he said he simply orders his employees to use a computer when necessary. That is what secretaries are for, right?

Sakurada says he does use a smartphone, so we can assume he knows what Facebook is and how to send an email. Further, according to reporting from Kyodo News, this all came up when Sakurada was being questioned by lawmakers about the security issues involved in using USB flash drives at nuclear power plants. He did not seem to be completely up to speed on what a USB drive is or what it is used for. His testimony before the committee included “I don’t know the details well. So how about having an expert answer your question if necessary?”

So how about having an expert answer the question? Or how about having an expert in charge? From one end of the political spectrum to the other, a lot of us have opinions on which political figures are qualified to do their jobs and which are not. All should be able to agree that if someone is to be in charge of cyber security, they ought to at least know the basics of using a computer. Apparently not in Japan.

Trying desperately to put the best possible spin on this, I hope that Yoshitaka Sakurada will bring a fresh perspective to cyber security. Perhaps the experts will be able to learn something from him.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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