Personal data leaks spike in Japan, hampering cashless economy push

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Photo credit Dick Thomas Johnson.

After a banner year for high-profile data breaches in the U.S., Japan is also grappling with a proliferation of cyber crime, just a few years before the the Land of the Rising Sun will host the Summer Olympic Games.

A new survey from Kyodo News reveals at least 12.6 million cases involving leaked personal data occurred in Japan in 2016 — a massive increase over the 2.07 million that took place in 2015. In all, about 1 in 10 Japanese citizens were affected by data breaches within the past year.

The largest leak involved travel agency JTB Corp., which made headlines after the names, addresses, and passport numbers of nearly 8 million were compromised in a June 2016 network attack. Other major incidents, including a December hack of cosmetics giant Shiseido, disclosed personal financial data and credit card numbers.

Despite its tech-oriented economy, the majority of Japanese citizens have negative views of credit card usage, many due to concerns over the security of personal information. Most everyday consumer transactions in the country are still cash-based.

As Japan prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the government is encouraging more widespread use of credit payments in an effort to create a more tourist-friendly economy. Last year’s spike in data theft demonstrates that work must be done to protect consumer identity in the push for a cashless Japan.