Japan combats industrial espionage
by Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Friday 07 April 2006
It often begins in a bar - a casual greeting as two strangers wait for their drinks. A conversation is struck up, handshakes and business cards exchanged. But one of these two men, usually a specialist engineer, is unaware he is a target.
The man opposite him is already assessing how
hard - or easy - it will be to get him to reveal the valuable secrets he
carries in his head, and for what price.
Russian officials in Tokyo refused to talk to Aljazeera.net about the Japanese allegations.
Protecting intellectual property
In an attempt to stem the outflow of valuable technology, the Secretariat of Intellectual Property Strategic Headquarters, a body combating piracy chaired by Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister, is drawing up a programme that it hopes will be enacted into law soon."Protection of intellectual property is a serious problem in Japan and we hope this very comprehensive proposal will reduce the threat to Japanese companies," a spokesman for the secretariat told Aljazeera.net.
"It would be inappropriate for me to comment on which countries are most active in this area and we are not even sure of the scale of the problem because Japan's economy is so large and diverse," he admitted.
The incident is the fifth time since 1989 that Japanese police have investigated industrial espionage involving Russia's trade delegation in Tokyo.
In a 2002 case, a trade representative attempted to buy classified missile technology from a member of Japan's Self-Defence Forces.
According to the police, the man pretended to be an Italian consultant when he first approached the Toshiba employee, who has neither been named nor charged with a crime.
"The man told me he was from a different
country and said his job was related to business consulting," the Toshiba
employee was quoted as telling police. "I later thought something was
strange because he asked for documents that I thought were unnecessary for his
The devices reportedly have applications in advanced fighter aircraft, missile guidance systems and submarines.
Japan's demographics may be part of the problem.
Mike O'Keefe, managing director of risk
consultants Kroll Japan, says that Japan's labour force is greying, with a lot
of engineers approaching retirement age who do not see much in the way of
retirement pay awaiting them.
And even if physical security is stiff around
factories and research centres, those are not the sort of places that the data
thieves go shopping for their wares.
"The typical way is what is called
'social engineering'; becoming friends with a man in a targeted research
group, going to dinner and drinks and talking.
Japan invaded China in 1937 and is blamed for the massacre of as many as 300,000 civilians in the eastern city of Nanjin.
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