Monday, April 29, 2013

Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat sold to pro-North Korean group without having its data wiped

It's not unusual for someone to forget to securely wipe a hard drive before returning it, donating it, or the like. How about a whole ship, however, as was reported on Monday.

A decommissioned coast guard vessel was sold by the Japanese government, without properly wiping key data on board the ship. That, in and of itself, is bad enough, but the ship, 106-ton Japan Coast Guard patrol boat Takachiho, was sold to a pro-North Korean organization.

The Takachiho was taken out of service in 2011, after 23 years of service. It was sold to a ship breaker run by a senior figure from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan or Chongryon, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun. Chongryon carries out many of the functions a North Korean embassy would have in Japan. There are no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

In addition, senior officials of Chongryon include members of North Korea’s Supreme People's Assembly, the unicameral parliament of the country.

An official told the Yomiuri Shimbun:
The vessel was sold in a state in which information regarding operational patterns of the patrol vessel could have been obtained by some party. We were on low security alert at that time.
Heightened tensions between North Korea and its neighbors mean that the "low security alert" is probably a thing of the past.

The Coast Guard admitted that -- not only was the Takachiho sold without an effective data wipe -- there were such no policies in place, anyway. Thus, the same thing could have happened on other occasions.

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