The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
Telework spurs action to thwart cyberattacks

Despite being pushed in the lead-up to the now postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, teleworking failed to capture much attention until coronavirus struck. Since then, it has taken off with a vengeance and has been instituted in earnest by numerous major corporations.

Many companies, however, have found themselves vulnerable due to their poor or nonexistent capabilities to stave off cyberattacks. The propagation of true teleworking, it seems, is not that simple.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, who has held her position since the formation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s second Cabinet in 2014, has long been a supporter of tele­working. She has worked actively to pro­­mote the option as a means of boosting productivity. Beginning in 2018, a national campaign called “Telework Days” was launched. Its budget was increased each year, but it yielded few results and the efforts floundered.

In the face of Covid-19, a government task force has included teleworking as part of the basic guidelines for dealing with the crisis, and businesses that had failed to embrace the option realized that not doing so was a threat to their existence.

But while, for many, the plans were already on the drawing boards, proper security had been overlooked. A survey conducted by data security provider Trend Micro Inc. from January to March found 6,559 instances of users in Japan being redirected to illegal sites containing the word “covid” or similar strings. Japan ranked second after the United States (7,151) and accounted for 14 percent of such attacks globally.

Recognizing the risk, the Tokyo Metro­politan Police Department has been calling for measures to defend against cyberattacks. The ministry has prioritized measures for dealing with the threat as part of its pro­­motion of teleworking, but a young staff member at the ministry voiced disappoint­ment: “The attacks had been antici­pated from the beginning. Despite our best efforts, we may lose the chance to adopt a true teleworking system.”

Ministry of finance
Record number of securities accounts as stock prices drop

Despite the marked decline in the value of stocks due to Covid-19, more people are opening trading accounts with securities firms. Customers opened 164,000 accounts with Rakuten Securities (Rakuten Shoken) in March, leading the company to announce, “We’ve set a new record in the industry.”

While the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which has been urging people to shift from savings to investment, has welcomed the trend, there is also concern that the value of many people’s holdings has dropped below the original investment.

“Now is actually not the time to begin invest­­ing,” a staff member of the agency said. Buying when a stock value is low and selling when it’s high is the basic principle, after all.

It is noteworthy that more than 70 percent of those opening new accounts are first-time investors, and more than 60 percent are aged 30 or under. Perhaps they were moved by remarks last year that ¥20 million would be neces­sary to ensure a comfortable livelihood after retirement, and the drop in stock prices motivated them to take action.

Due to the uncertainties of the pan­demic, some have predicted that stock prices may plummet a second—or even third—time, and another staff at the agency fretted, “If more losses occur, we’re worried people will become gun-shy and start to see investing as too dangerous.”

More than half of individual Japanese assets are held in cash, and investment is lower compared with Europe and North America. With the rapid aging of Japanese society, this is a matter of great concern.

One reason for this may be that, since the collapse of the economic “bubble” in the early 1990s, a negative image has persisted that common shares are scary and invest­ment is akin to gambling.

From the long-term view, if monthly investments are diversified, it is fairly easy to obtain stable-interest revenues. With the number of first-time investors on the rise, the FSA wants to continue its encour­agement, but must face the bitter reality that this is difficult with so many people suffering hardships due to the pandemic.

keizaikai magazine