From: The Yomiuri Shimbun

The economy ministry will establish the nation’s first facility to check the cybersecurity of control systems used to manage such things as important infrastructure or production lines at chemical factories.

Scheduled to open by March next year at the earliest, the facility will be located in Miyagi Prefecture and operated by a private sector-led association.

It will be modeled on a cyber-attack test bed set up by the U.S. Homeland Security Department and will conduct cyber-attack simulations for control systems, using computer viruses created by itself to test resistance against such attacks.

The economy ministry also intends to kick off a system in 2014 to certify the security of control systems.

The control system security center will be operated by a to-be created technology and research association operated by the private sector. It will comprise eight parties, including The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, an incorporated administrative agency based in both Tokyo and Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture; Toshiba Corp.; Hitachi, Ltd.; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.; and Mori Building Co.

With 2 billion yen of funds provided by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, the association will be set up in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, which was badly hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Recent cyber-attacks include one in Japan in which a semiconductor factory was forced to suspend operations after its control systems were infected with a virus, and one at a nuclear-related facility abroad that was forced to suspend operations.

To find out how to protect control systems from cyber-attacks, the security center will develop original computer viruses, launch simulated cyber-attacks against control systems with the viruses, and observe what happens to the systems.

The security center will also scrutinize security for next-generation power supply control technology called smart grids, and develop experts to strengthen security of control systems.

Beginning in 2014, the security center will accept requests from companies such as manufacturers to check the security of their products against cyber-attacks.

The economy ministry intends to start an original system to certify the security of control systems by setting up another organization to review the results of tests conducted by the security center and to issue certification.

Domestic manufacturers are being increasingly required to provide such certification when exporting their products to the United States and European countries. It costs more than 10 million yen to obtain such certification.

An official of the economy ministry said, “It’s indispensable for Japan to set up a certification system to improve the country’s international competitiveness.”