Japanese Military Shamed by Portable Storage

Stolen USB drive will do little for military relations with the US

July 1, 2008

2 Min Read
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Japan is the latest country reeling from an embarrassing data breach after the theft of a USB drive containing sensitive information on joint military exercises with the U.S.

This is not the first time that Japans military has suffered a high-profile security snafu. Last year, for example, the country’s armed forces hit the headlines after sensitive information concerning the U.S.-built Aegis missile system was discovered on a serviceman’s home PC.

The Aegis incident came at a bad time for Japan, which is attempting to forge closer military ties with the U.S., and resulted in an apology to U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates.

The latest breach has again placed Japan’s military in the spotlight, and is likely to have prompted yet more frustration within the Pentagon.

A lieutenant colonel in Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) based in the country’s Hyogo Prefecture borrowed the drive containing troop deployment maps in February 2007, according to today’s issue of the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.The drive was then lent to a sergeant who left it on his desk, from where it was reportedly stolen and then dumped by a GSDF captain.

Japan’s defense minister Shigeru Ishiba today explained his department’s decision not to disclose the theft until now.

“We feared that the information could further spread if some people search for it [on the Internet],” he told a press conference, according to Mainichi Shimbun.

The theft and the preceding comedy of errors nonetheless puts Japan under more pressure to lock down its military data, something which was recently highlighted by Thomas Schieffer, the American ambassador to Japan.

”Both Japan and the United States can reduce their defense costs by reducing the impediments that currently keep them from cooperating more,” he said, during an address to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. “The United States could do more if Japan increased its ability to protect classified material and proprietary information.”Japan, of course, is not the only country to have suffered an embarrassing breach of military data. Earlier this year, for example, a USB drive containing military secrets surfaced in a public library in Stockholm, prompting red faces in that country’s military.

Last year, a survey revealed that almost three quarters of organizations house critical data on removable media despite numerous warnings about the security threats posed by the technology.

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