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Competitive Cybersecurity Talent Search as a Winning Formula for Japan’s Digital Defense

Japan’s Defense Military will hold its first competition in March in which talents from worldwide will compete to show their understanding of cybersecurity and their ability to put their know-how and skills to work as the officials search for talent to boost the country’s digital defences. 

The competition will take place online on March 14, with nearly 200 Japanese citizens expected to compete to demonstrate the breadth of their abilities in areas such as information analysis and computer security system vulnerabilities, the ministry official said. 

The event comes when states such as Russia and China are reinforcing and expanding their military’s offensive cyber capabilities. 

According to Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the threat of cybersecurity has been growing and becoming more sophisticated by the day. Therefore, it lays heavy on the officials’ shoulders to advance the country’s cyber capabilities. 

Kishi also expressed confidence for the competition, for which the ministry receives entries between Monday and February 2, will help the ministry discover the most gifted recruits. The pseudonyms or names of the top-five finishers will be released on the ministry’s website. 

In its last year’s paper release, the ministry stated that “cyberattacks are recognized as an asymmetrical means to obstruct the military doings of adversaries at low cost.”

Kishi also warned bad actors could “severely impact the lives of the citizens” by destroying critical infrastructure, including power systems. 

Japan’s Cyber Security: A Neglected Frontier 

Last year’s SolarWinds cyberattacks, which jammed into numerous U.S. governments, highlights the growing relevance of digital security and cyber-crime to national governments. Not only the deeds of individual criminals but crimes committed by state-sponsored or entirely-operated hacker groups have also increasingly been alleged.

Yet, with digital space growing in importance as a frontier of political controversy, countries must act; what measures has Japan been taking, and what barriers are there to skyrocket Japan’s cybersecurity? 

At the time of typing, the country Self-Defence operates a Cyber Defence Groups of 290 workers under the SDF’s Command Control Communication Computer Systems Command. Considering the cyber defence staff already under the umbrella of the C4SC, Japan has nearly 400 personnel employed in cybersecurity for the country’s Self-Defence Force. 

More challenges to Japan’s cyber forces also stream from the state’s laws and constitution. For instance, Article 21 of Japan’s constitution states that “the secrecy of all types of communication should not be violated,” apparently placing limitations on the country’s ability and the Internet service providers to investigate packet communication. Though the officials have arguably violated Article 21 in the past, especially over the restriction of piracy websites, it nevertheless poses a possible obstacle to blocking or tracing packet communication as part of the Japanese retort to a cyberattack. 

Narrow Scope

What’s more, the scope of Japan’s cyber defence ambitions may not be wide enough to protect Japan against cyber threats. At this time, the Cyber Defence Group is assigned to respond to the attacks against the JSDF’S own systems, not with the defence of other essential public or private infrastructure. Now with the SolarWinds hack’s demonstration of the vulnerability of private services to government-supported hacking and the continuous effect such breaches can have on other private and public sector networks, it’s probable that the Japanese officials and JSDF will have to extend their scope and take measure to support weakest points throughout the country’s cyberinfrastructure.

Measures have already been taken in this area, with Japan NISC distributing cybersecurity guidance to companies in critical industries and supporting information sharing. But as it seems, Japan could do more to formalize the role of skilled cyber defence staff in the event of a cyberattack against non-military substructures.

The country can pair cyber defence with an innovation offence to strengthen its position in the strategic competition with China and support its economy. Yet, to do so, it needs to leverage several significant nation strengths. That means demonstrated excellence in hardware that could be applied to cybersecurity and hardware by working on Japan’s considerable strengths in basic research for key technology areas. They can also draw from its massively skilled, though admittedly thin, a bench of professionals to better organize talent across its cybersecurity workforce.

With the internet and a tech-savvy population willing to embrace robotics more than western countries, this country provides a fertile test ground to develop new applications and technologies across various industries. Numerous improvements regarding cyber-security have already been introduced across the private and public sectors, including Japan’s best video streaming platform GYAO.  

What Are Some Fast-Growing Cybersecurity Skills in 2021? 

Awareness of cyber careers among young adults is surging, and it’s driving to an uptick in interest in the field. Nearly 30% of women and 43% said they were more likely to choose a cybersecurity career than they were a year ago – a considerable boost in the right direction. With a bit of luck, a significant majority of these young adults will convert their curiosity into the actual pursuit of applications for cyber jobs or degree programs. 

  • Cybersecurity experts with cloud security skills to gain a $15,025 slay premium by exploiting the strong market demand for their skills in 2021. 
  • 413,687job positions for Health Information Security professionals were posted around October 2019 to September 2020, leading all skill areas in demand. 
  • Application Development Security and DevOps professionals can expect to earn a $12,266 salary premium based on their unique, favoured talents. 

The most looked-for skills area reflects the high priority companies place on building a secure digital infrastructure that can grow. Cloud Security and Application development are far and away from the most progressive skill areas in cybersecurity, with an anticipated 5-year growth of 115% and 164%, respectively. This highlights the shift from backdated security strategies to proactive policies. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Information Security states, cybersecurity jobs are among the most proliferating career areas worldwide. 

Written by Marie Foster

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