The Japan Times
Aug. 21, 2006
This year's annual National Police Agency white paper, titled "Toward
Building a Safe Internet Society," focuses on the dark side of the
Internet, including its negative influences on children and its use in
cyber-crime. It correctly points out that as Internet-related
information and communication networks become more deeply connected with
social and economic activities, people need to recognize the negative
aspects, and that parents and Internet-based enterprises must work to
rectify this situation. This is the second time that the annual police
report has focused on the Internet -- in 1998 it examined high-tech
Last year the police investigated a record 3,161 cyber-crime cases that
included arrests, an increase of more than 50 percent from the previous
year. At least 1,408 of those cases were said to be related to Internet
auction fraud -- 2.6 times more than in the previous year.
Meanwhile, a record 84,173 people sought advice from the police and
other organizations concerning Internet-related problems, such as being
billed for services they never used. The number of people who
experienced such problems had increased nearly five times in half a
The white paper also mentions other threats to Internet users such as
spyware, which retrieves information stored in personal computers, and
"phishing," a routine in which computer users are guided to false Web
sites for the purpose of stealing their personal information such as
credit card details. It underlines the need to establish a system under
which an Internet communications log is kept for a period of time and to
improve the technology for electronic data analysis to facilitate
investigations of cyber-crimes.
Given the rapid progress of information technology, the possibility of
large-scale cyber-terrorism that targets infrastructure such as
electricity, gas and water utilities, airline services, financial
services, public transport and communication facilities cannot be ruled
out. It is important that the government, business enterprises and
citizens be aware of the dangers inherent in today's Internet society.
The white paper notes the ease with which children can access harmful
information posted on the Internet, since nearly half the nation's
households have broadband connections. Readily available information
includes pornography, advice on committing suicide, bomb-making
instructions and advertisements for socially questionable activities.
The posting of obscene images, child pornography and information on the
availability of stimulant drugs constitutes a crime.
According to a poll of 2,271 junior and senior high school students in
Aomori, Tokyo, Shiga, Okayama, Kagawa and Kagoshima prefectures and
their 2,196 parents, conducted in November and December 2005 by an NPA
study group, 92 percent of the children knew that obscene images could
be seen via personal computers or cell phones, and 25 percent of them --
49 percent of male high school students -- had actually viewed such
Eighty-six percent of the children knew of the existence of Web sites
that focus on suicide, and 76 percent knew of Web sites that displayed
violent images (although these Web sites were not visited as often as
obscene Web sites). The poll found that children in most families use
the Internet without restrictions, and that parents do not seem very
concerned about taking concrete measures to protect their children from
illegal or harmful information posted on the Internet.
Asked whether they have set any rules concerning their children's use of
the Internet, 62.1 percent of the parents said no. Yet more than 70
percent of the parents worry that their children may see obscene images
or become victims of Internet fraud. As many as 57.7 percent of the
parents said they were not aware of the existence of filtering software
to block illegal or harmful information. And only 7.7 said they had
actually used it.
The white paper reports that only 31.3 percent of polled shops either
recommend or provide filtering software for use with personal computers
or cell phones, while 46.9 percent do neither. Another poll shows that
more than 80 percent of Internet users want providers to exercise more
control over content.
Society must do more to provide Internet users with accurate information
on the dangers of the Internet and help them protect themselves.
Internet providers and managers of bulletin board systems also must
strive to build a safer Web society.
The Japan Times
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