The Japanese government is investigating a potentially serious breach of national security after a cyber-attack on Mitsubishi Electric earlier this year which may have yielded top secret missile plans.
The tech giant said in a statement earlier this week that it reported an incident to the Defense Ministry in February, in which sensitive information including personal data on 8000 employees may have been stolen, according to AP.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga is said to have told reporters that the government is now investigating “the possible impact of the information leak on national security.”
The stolen data is thought to relate to a prototype missile that Mitsubishi was bidding to build. The firm didn’t win the bid but held sensitive documents related to the design as part of the process.
Russia, the US and China appear to be in an arms race to build these hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs), which are said to combine the speed of a ballistic missile with the maneuvering capabilities of a cruise missile, making them incredibly difficult for conventional defense systems to track.
Given that the missiles were apparently intended to be deployed in Japan’s southern islands to ward of the threat from an increasingly assertive China, it would seem that Beijing-backed hackers are likely to be behind these latest cyber-espionage efforts.
It’s unclear whether the reported incident relates to one revealed by Mitsubishi Electric in January, which took place back in June 2019.
At the time reports suggested likely Chinese hackers had stolen 200MB of data from the firm.
However, Mitsubishi claimed that, although personal and corporate confidential information may have been taken, “sensitive information on social infrastructure such as defense, electric power and railways, highly confidential technical information, and important information concerning business partners has not been leaked.”