Japan investigates Mitsubishi Electric breach amid national security concerns

Data likely stolen in the hack included specifications of missile prototypes, according to Japanese media.
Officials from the Japanese Ministry of Defense visit with U.S. military personnel in 2017 (U.S. Department of Defense).

Japan is investigating a possible breach of sensitive defense contracting data following a cyberattack last year on electronics giant Mitsubishi Electric, officials said Wednesday.

Data likely stolen in the hack, which Mitsubishi disclosed earlier this year, included specifications of hypersonic missile prototypes that Japan is developing, according to a report in Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. The Ministry of Defense had sent the specifications to multiple companies, including Mitsubishi, interested in bidding on the missile contract, the report said.

Japanese officials have said the high-velocity missile could be used to protect islands in the East China Sea that are the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute between Japan and China.

At a press conference Wednesday, government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga confirmed that Japan’s Ministry of Defense was examining the incident’s impact on national security, but declined to give further details. Mitsubishi said in a statement that it reported the breach to the Japanese government in February. The company said it was taking steps to protect its data.


It was not clear who was responsible for the hack on Mitsubishi. The Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.

Defense contractors for multiple governments have long been targeted by hackers looking to steal weapons schematics. Seven years ago, a confidential U.S. Defense Department report cited by the Washington Post said Chinese spies had hacked designs for several advanced U.S. weapons systems. Since then, U.S. defense contractors have moved to fortify their networks but still face an array of threats.

The Pentagon opened a facility last year to enforce cybersecurity rules for guarding data on weapons systems.

Sean Lyngaas

Written by Sean Lyngaas

Sean Lyngaas is CyberScoop’s Senior Reporter covering the Department of Homeland Security and Congress. He was previously a freelance journalist in West Africa, where he covered everything from a presidential election in Ghana to military mutinies in Ivory Coast for The New York Times. Lyngaas’ reporting also has appeared in The Washington Post, The Economist and the BBC, among other outlets. His investigation of cybersecurity issues in the nuclear sector, backed by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, won plaudits from industrial security experts. He was previously a reporter with Federal Computer Week and, before that, with Smart Grid Today. Sean earned a B.A. in public policy from Duke University and an M.A. in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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