The National Police Agency said Thursday it plans to set up a new bureau and a team dedicated to responding to serious cybercrimes, including alleged state-sponsored attacks from China, North Korea or Russia.
The agency aims to revise the police law in the ordinary Diet session next year to start operations by the bureau in April 2022 and the team, comprised of some 200 investigators recruited from police departments nationwide, by March 2023, officials said.
Officers adept at cyber and internet probes will work for the team, which will focus on serious cases, including those targeting administrative offices and core infrastructures, requiring high technologies for investigation, or causing massive simultaneous damage nationwide, they said.
The team, which will cooperate with prefectural police departments and foreign institutions as needed, can seize and analyze evidence, arrest suspects or send them to prosecutors, they said.
However, a senior agency official said the scope of the investigation by the new team is "limited" and it will focus on looking into the background of a case, including the involvement of a foreign state.
"We are hardly assuming a situation where the team alone arrests a suspect," said the official.
The new bureau will be responsible for information analysis and coordination with private companies, as well as promoting digital policy and the use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies.
It will be the first time since its launch in 1954 that the NPA has been directly involved in probes, excluding its Imperial Guard Headquarters tasked with protecting the royal family. In Japan, local police in each of the nation's 47 prefectures are in charge of investigations.
Operations related to cyberattacks, currently handled by the agency's departments of community safety and public security, will be tackled by the new cyber bureau, the officials said.
In April, a Chinese engineer who is a member of the Chinese Communist Party was referred to prosecutors by Tokyo police over his alleged involvement in cyberattacks on about 200 companies and research institutes, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, in 2016 and 2017.
The series of hacks are believed to have been conducted by "Tick," a Chinese cyberespionage group, under the direction of China's People's Liberation Army, according to investigative sources.