Japan cybersecurity head denies never having used a computer

A Japanese cybersecurity minister has been forced to contradict his own comments that he has never used a computer.

There was widespread astonishment in Japan when Yoshitaka Sakurada, the deputy chief of the government’s cybersecurity strategy office, told a parliamentary committee meeting that computers had never featured in his professional life.

“Since the age of 25, I have instructed my employees and secretaries, so I don’t use computers myself,” he said.

Mr Sakurada also appeared to be confused by questions on basic software, failing to answer when asked if USB drives were in use at Japan’s nuclear facilities.

The 68-year-old Mr Sakurada was appointed to the cabinet last month, despite never having held a cabinet position in any of his 22 years in parliament.

He was also given responsibility for overseeing preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which take place in Tokyo in 2020.

His comments produced a backlash of incredulity from both opposition ministers and the general public.

“It’s unbelievable that someone who has not touched computers is responsible for cybersecurity policies,” said opposition lawmaker Masato Imai.

Comments on social media were more scathing, ranging from “Holy Cow!” to “Doesn’t he feel ashamed?”

It was also sarcastically suggested that he was merely adopting the most security-conscious approach to cybersecurity in that hackers would have a hard time stealing information from the resolutely offline minister.

Mr Sakurada has since moved to clarify his comments. At a subsequent press conference, he stated: “Referring to the comment I made on 14 November, I do not use computers at home on a daily basis, but at the office, I obviously use it for various work,” he said.

“For those who use them (computers), I always instruct them to take security measures.”

It remains to be seen if his clarifications will restore public confidence in his abilities and allay any concerns about Japan’s preparations for the forthcoming Olympics, which have recently been estimated by Japanese newspaper Mainichi to be running at somewhere near $7bn, seven times the original budget.

Mr Sakurada has been criticised before for his public statements and responses to parliamentary questions. He has repeatedly answered “I don’t know” to questions about the Olympics.

He has also made mistakes with numbers. When asked how much the government would be contributing to the cost of the Olympics, Mr Sakurada replied “JPY1,500” which is equivalent to $13, some way short of the estimated $13bn cost.

One less-than-stellar parliamentary performance was even blamed on the fact that the opposition member had not submitted their questions to Mr Sakurada in advance. “Since there was no prior notice about the questions, I had no idea what would be asked at the session,” he said.

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