Japanese space agency confirms cyberattack

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the country’s space agency, confirmed on Wednesday that it had been the target of a cyberattack.

The agency said that while it had been breached by hackers, they did not access any information that was important for rocket and satellite operations.

A spokesperson for the agency, who declined to provide details on when the attack took place or its nature, said: "There was a possibility of unauthorised access by exploiting the vulnerability of network equipment.”

They said that JAXA learned of the possibility of the breach after receiving information from an external organisation. It subsequently conducted an internal investigation which is still ongoing, the spokesperson added.

Chief cabinet secretary of Japan Hirokazu Matsuno subsequently spoke at a press conference in which he said that attackers gained access to JAXA’s Active Directory (AD) server. This server likely contains information such as employee credentials.

The incident was first reported by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which claimed that the attack took place during the summer, with police becoming aware of it and informing JAXA in the autumn.

JAXA, established in 2003, has been the target of multiple security breaches. The most prominent incidents occured in 2016 and 2017 when a widespread cyberattack impacted nearly 200 Japanese defence-related research institutions and firms. This attack was subsequently tied to Tick, a hacker group with ties to the Chinese military.

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