- V3 Apps
The Japanese Defence Ministry is developing software designed to monitor cyber attacks, trace them back to their source, and disable both the origin of the malware and any infected computers used to spread it.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported on Tuesday that the Japanese government began development of the system in 2008 as part of a three-year project that was later outsourced to Fujitsu.
The software has been tested in a closed environment and could help identify and disable the sources of botnet-powered attacks designed to steal information or launch DDoS attacks, the report said.
Japan's government and private sector have come under increasingly frequent attack in recent months, especially from China-based hackers looking to steal military and other secrets.
In September 2011, defence contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was one of several organisations targeted globally by an information-stealing Trojan attack.
However, the government has been forced to consider legislative changes given that such a system may break current computer crime laws banning the production and dissemination of malware.
Rik Ferguson, EMEA director of security research at Trend Micro, argued that if such a tool were being developed it is likely to be done so in order to mitigate the increasing threat from cyber espionage.
"I haven't heard of anyone working on automated software designed to search and destroy like this," he told V3.
"Certainly in the UK it would be illegal. You can't access or modify any computer that doesn't belong to you without permission."
He added that although such a tool could be useful in an internal network environment, much of its work could actually be undertaken by real-time activity monitoring tools.
Ferguson also warned that such a software program could end up destroying vital forensic evidence if it has been designed to disable the source of a particular threat.
V3 contacted Fujitsu for comment on the news but had not heard back at the time of writing.
Phil Muncaster is news editor at V3.co.uk, a role he has fulfilled since January 2010. Previously he was chief reporter for IT Week, having also worked as a reporter and senior reporter on the publication from 2005.
Before IT Week, Phil worked as a researcher for the Rough Guide. Prior to his work in journalism, Phil spent three years teaching English in Japan.