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Tokyo calms public after pension hack attack

The Japanese government has sought to allay public fears after more than one million names and pension numbers were leaked by cyberattackers. A similar scandal almost led to PM Abe's downfall in 2007.

The government in Tokyo was scrambling on Tuesday to reassure the Japanese public that their pensions were safe, after some 1.25 million personal records were leaked in a cyberattack on Pensions Service staff's computers.

"We will make every effort to keep this from causing inconvenience to those whose data was leaked and to review the issue and take preventive measures," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a top aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Japan Pension Service President Toichiro Mizushima warned Monday that the actual number of affected records may increase. The hack attack was detected on May 28 after an external email virus had leaked data including people's names, pension numbers, addresses and birth dates.

Abe under attack

The opposition was quick to pounce on news of the incident, hoping to profit from a similar 2007 scandal, in which public outrage over the loss of 50 million records of pension premium payments contributed to Abe's resignation.

"This is a situation which undermines the foundations of livelihoods and shakes confidence in pensions," Democratic Party executive Yoshiaki Takaki was quoted as saying Tuesday.

While analysts said Abe's ratings could suffer in the short term, they predicted the current incident wouldn't lead to a repeat of 2007. The Prime Minister enjoys widespread popular support after winning a landslide re-election in December.

"The conditions are much more favorable to him (than in his first term from 2006 to 2007)," said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.

"On the other hand, even though his support levels are still relatively high, his policies are not widely supported," he said, adding that whether Abe's survives in office depends on how he tackles this crisis.

News of the hacking came less than 48 hours after Japan and the US announced a deal to coordinate efforts to combat cybersecurity threats.

pad/hg (AFP, Reuters)

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