Japan police to ally with hackers in tactical shift

The new policy comes after an embarassing hacking case in which several individuals were wrongly arrested

Japanese police are adopting a new strategy for fighting cybercrime that includes teaming up with hackers to catch criminals.

The National Police Agency said the new approach is part of its new "emergency program" for dealing with online crime. The program was developed in response to an embarrassing case last year in which four individuals were wrongly arrested after their PCs were hacked and used to post threatening messages on public bulleting boards.

The new approach includes having members of the police force "join hacking communities" to "create relationships with hackers and carry out necessary information collecting activities," according to a plan posted online.

The police agency will also seek to employ more staff with technical knowledge about fields related to the Internet and smartphones, as well as weigh the option of sending staff to technical universities to study information security. It will also work to create new departments for dealing with cyber attacks, and organizing regional forces in local governments across Japan.

The new strategy specifically mentions Tor, short for "The Onion Router," a system that uses multiple layers of encryption to protect user anonymity while online, and similar systems as one subject for further research. The document says it will consider policy measures including limiting access to connections that use tools like Tor.

The agency has moved to strengthen its knowledge and enforcement of online crime in recent months, due in part to the flood of bad publicity as it stumbled in the case last year. In December, the organization offered its first-ever reward for a hacker, complete with a wanted poster that included details such as the individual's proficiency in C# and posting online using anonymous tools. The reward in that case is ¥3 million (US$36,000).

Japan's National Police Agency is similar to organizations like the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S., but its role is more focused on working with and organizing local police forces than independent investigations.

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