M Update, 30/1/2019 – The Japanese government is about to hack all citizens with internet-connected devices in homes or offices via a nationwide ‘survey’ aimed at improving cyber security.
The first-of-its-kind survey was recently approved by the government and will be carried out by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology starting mid-February.
It will attempt to access about 200 million devices using the most common IDs and passwords like “abcd,” “1234” or “admin.” Any owners of devices that were successfully breached would then be notified that they need to improve their security measures.
The institute was given the authority to hack people’s devices for a five-year period following a revised law that went into effect last November. Only internet service providers are required to give consent, individual gadgets like smartphones will not be targeted but public routers at cafes and malls that provide free internet for users will be examined.
“Too often, we see webcams, for example, that are already being hacked because security settings are too simple and their images are being seen by outsiders.
“Sometimes they are put on public websites without the owners being aware,” institute spokesman Tsutomu Yoshida told AFP.
“We will see, of roughly 200 million products to be surveyed, how many are being exposed” to risks, Yoshida said.
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A security professor at the institute did admit that researchers may unintentionally gain access to stored data and webcam images which, if revealed, would violate the device owner’s constitutional right to privacy.
The minister for communications asked the public for their understanding and support for the involuntary survey, citing the need to improve cyber-security in the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.