« July 2013 | Main | November 2013 »

1 post from October 2013

Oct 02, 2013

SNS in Japan

I'm Shoko Nakai, a member of the Incident Response Group.

It was back in 1998 when I first started corresponding with my friends over the Internet. I was a student then and had the opportunity to participate in a short study program in the United States. I was invited to several social events, and people asked me to exchange e-mail addresses by writing it on a piece of paper. But if I were a student now, I don’t think I would prefer to exchange contacts in this way – I would use Social Networking Services (SNS) for the convenience of maintaining and strengthening relationships.

Currently, a vast majority of people all over the world, especially the young, are engaging with SNS via computer and/or mobile phone on a daily basis – and Japan is no exception.

History of SNS in Japan

Looking back at the history, Japanese local SNS called mixi and GREE started providing their services in 2004, and Mobage in 2006. These three local services were most popular among the Japanese back in mid to late 2000.

Figure 1 – Growth of Popular SNS Services from 2005 to 2010 in Japan

Note: This figure has been created by JPCERT/CC based on publicly available data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

Source: White Paper 2011 - Information and Communications in Japan
http://www.soumu.go.jp/johotsusintokei/whitepaper/ja/h23/html/nc213120.html

In 2008, some overseas services such as Twitter and Facebook became available in Japanese interface, and this led them to gain popularity. Facebook users are said to have significantly increased since 2011, when the movie "The Social Network" was released in Japan.

Figure 2 – Number of Active Users of Twitter and Facebook in Japan

Note: This figure has been created by JPCERT/CC based on publicly available data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

Source: White Paper 2012- Information and Communications in Japan
http://www.soumu.go.jp/johotsusintokei/whitepaper/ja/h24/html/nc123220.html

LinkedIn also gained a lot of visibility after their service became available in Japanese interface in 2011.

I could not find latest statistics on the number of users of major SNS, but foreign SNS that are providing services worldwide seem to be dominant to the Japanese local SNS.

Preference for Anonymity and the Change

mixi, a popular SNS in Japan since early times, allows users to register anonymously. And until 2010, mixi’s service was available by invitation only. Many Japanese SNS users have long been familiar with such styles. In fact, a recent statistic shows the strong hesitation of Japanese people to disclose their real names to third parties on SNS, compared to people in the other countries.

Figure 3 – Opinion on Disclosing Real Names to Third Parties on SNS

Note: This figure has been created by JPCERT/CC based on publicly available data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

Source: White Paper 2013- Information and Communications in Japan,
http://www.soumu.go.jp/johotsusintokei/whitepaper/ja/h25/html/nc131230.html

But I think Japanese people are gradually starting to understand the benefit of real-name SNS, and quite a large number of people are making use of such services as a means to supplement the face-to-face communication.

Enhanced Use of SNS

SNS has become vital for Japanese society. An incident that made us realize its importance was the Great East Japan Earthquake which we experienced in 2011. SNS such as Twitter and Facebook had become the easiest and quickest way of keeping in touch with families, as well as providing emergency numbers and information to those in stricken areas.

In addition, a bill to permit the use of the Internet including SNS for election campaigns, was passed into law by the Upper House in April 2013. Formerly, candidates and their supporters had not been permitted to use SNS, update their websites or even send emails during the official campaign period. But with the new law, they can do more than shouting out their names in their election districts. This deregulation is expected to invigorate political discourse through more open discussions over the Internet, which I hope will lead to higher voter turnouts, especially for the young people.

SNS Threats and Countermeasures

In spite of its usefulness, I have to say that SNS is not 100% secure. JPCERT/CC has conducted a survey on SNS threats in 2011 based on actual cases (e.g. social engineering, phishing, malware, disclosure of information), then compiled a report in April 2013. As a member of the survey team, I’d like to share with you some recommendations for secure use of SNS from the perspective of three parties: service providers, corporate users and general users.

Service Providers:

  • To be aware of security issues regarding website development and operation, since SNS is an application running on a web server.
  • To always keep in mind that scammers attempt to intrude into SNS with malicious intent.
  • To protect users by developing a system that enables users to identify the fraudulent URL.
  • To be prepared for incidents by developing an internal CSIRT and maintaining contact with relevant parties and other CSIRTs.

 

Corporate Users:

  • To keep your PC patched and protected from malware.
  • To always keep in mind that scammers attempt to contact you, pretending to be your friends/followers.
  • To formulate and follow SNS user guidelines.
  • To recognize that posted articles represent your organization.

 

General Users:

  • To keep your PC patched and protected from malware.
  • To always keep in mind that scammers attempt to contact you, pretending to be your friends/followers.
  • To check and follow the employment regulation and SNS user guidelines of your organization.
  • To think before you post on how others would think about your post.
  • To keep in mind the possibility that you may be identified on the occasion of flaming/bashing, even if you post anonymously.

 

Thank you for reading my post.

- Shoko Nakai