Japanese government and industry leaders braced for premeditated hacking attacks in an extensive cyber security drill, the first for the country as it gears up to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Around 50 cyber defense specialists gathered at an emergency response center in Tokyo to dodge simulated attacks across 21 state ministries and agencies and 10 industry associations, said Ikuo Misumi, a hacking expert at Japan’s state-run National Information Security Center.

“It’s not that we haven’t put effort into cyber security, but we are certainly behind the US,” Ichita Yamamoto, the cabinet minister in charge of IT policy and is leading the effort to boost cyber security, said in an interview with Reuters.

Japan followed suit with Britain in taking similar measures in the runup to the 2012 London Olympics. During the event, London reportedly parried multiple cyber attacks.

Despite the tough new official secrets law enforced under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, officials said they are still concerned whether the government can adequately protect itself from malicious internet hackers.

Attacks by foreign and domestic hackers against the government doubled last year, Misumi said.

Japan is priming up to host the 2020 Games, the country’s first Summer Olympics since 1964, in hopes in would lift the economy, prompting officials to double safeguards to protect public and private organizations from potential cyber attacks.

This week’s drill will help break down various “silos that currently exist in Japan,” said William Saito, a US-born tech entrepreneur recruited to advise the government.

Yamamoto said a unified approach to Japan’s online security will be concluded in the first meeting of cyber security officials and outside experts.

The IT minister added that his ministry will provide recommendations to the government, including encouraging more Japanese students to take up computer science or developing security software in Japan to guard against hackers.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Sebra / Shutterstock.com