Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
("Yomiuri Shimbun", March 5, 2000)
More than 80 percent of people still feel anxious about the Aum Supreme Truth cult, even though the government has tightened its restrictions on the cult, according to the results of a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey.
In addition, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they thought the cult's activities would continue as before.
The cult was officially put under surveillance by public security authorities on Feb. 1, after the move was approved in accordance with a new law to regulate dangerous organizations. The security authorities inspected the cult's facilities soon after the new law took effect.
However, the survey revealed that many people believe that the new measures will not be enough to control the cult's activities.
The survey was carried out on Feb. 19-20 on 3,000 eligible voters selected at random from around the country, of whom 1,928, or 64.7 percent, responded.
Eighty-one percent of respondents said they were still worried about the cult's activities, while 18 percent said they were not.
The number of people still anxious about the cult fell 10 percentage points from the figure recorded in a similar survey conducted in June 1999, when many incidents involving the cult were reported. However, the figure is still high, probably because there are still frequent incidents involving cult members.
Only 30 percent of respondents believed the number of incidents involving the cult would diminish, and 7 percent thought the cult would be dissolved.
In addition, asked whether they were religious themselves, 23 percent, two points up from a 1998 survey, said they were. The remaining 77 percent responded that they did not believe in any religion. Thirty-one percent, up from 27 percent in 1998, said that they thought religion was important.
("Yomiuri Shimbun", March 4, 2000)
The Aum Supreme Truth cult Thursday submitted a list of its members and assets to the Public Security Investigation Agency for the first time, in accordance with a new law aimed at regulating the activities of the cult.
According to the list, which the group made public at a press conference Thursday, Aum has 570 practicing followers and 365 secular members.
The cult's assets reportedly consist of 25 million yen in cash and 13 million yen in bank and postal savings. Real estate that the group is using for its activities include nine land lots, 13 office buildings and 89 residential buildings.
A spokesman for the cult said that the 45-year-old former leader, Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, was not an executive member of what the cult claimed was a new organization, although his name appeared at the top of the list submitted to the authorities. The cult has recently undergone some organizational changes and has also changed its official name.
"He is no longer our representative as determined by the Public Security Examination Commission," the spokesperson said.
Bankruptcy administrators in charge of Aum will ask the Public Security Investigation Agency to provide copies of the documents submitted by the cult. The documents will be used to help compensate the victims of the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system and their families, according to administrators.
(Kyodo News Service, March 3, 2000)
TOKYO, March 3 (Kyodo) A female member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult was involved in the development of online systems at Kiyo Bank in Wakayama Prefecture and other regional banks, sources close to the security division of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) said Friday.
The woman, in her 30s, was believed to have had access to the names of clients, as well as data on their assets, annual incomes and transaction records, according to the sources.
She previously worked as a computer programmer for a major city bank with a nationwide network, the sources said.
This is the first case in which police have been able to confirm a cult member's involvement in the development of online systems for banks.
The MPD is studying the case as part of a wider investigation into the cult's operation of nationwide software businesses, the sources said.
According to the security division, the woman was hired by the bank in Tokyo after graduating from university and worked there for about 10 years as a programmer.
She left the bank and joined the cult just before the Tokyo subway gassing in 1995, for which AUM members have been charged.
Meanwhile, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) said Friday one of its subsidiaries had an AUM-related company develop software to manage station proceeds.
The company, run by another AUM member, received via three subcontractors a 3 million yen JR East Japan Information Systems Co. contract to develop software between October 1998 and January 1999.
The incidents follow recent revelations that software companies linked to the cult developed systems for a number of government ministries and major companies.
Police also discovered Thursday that AUM obtained a list of about 3,000 senior officials of Honda Motor Co. through one of its software companies. The MPD said it suspects the company obtained the list, which shows the officials' full names, ages and titles, when the company received orders for personnel management systems from the automaker in 1997.
(Reuters, March 2, 2000)
TOKYO, March 2 (Reuters) - The vast majority of Japanese say they still fear the mysterious Supreme Truth doomsday cult that set off a fatal nerve gas attack on Tokyo's crowded subway system nearly five years ago, a newspaper said on Thursday.
Those fears are fanned by almost daily reports on newspaper front pages, including revelations this week that some government ministries, including the Defence Agency, had unknowingly installed software developed by cult-related companies.
A poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun of 1,928 people showed that 81 percent of those surveyed said they still harboured worries about the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult.
The poll said 57 percent believed the cult would continue its activities, despite coming under government surveillance since last month and becoming the target of several police raids.
In the 1995 nerve gas attack on the capital's subway system, 12 commuters were killed and thousands injured. Aum preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for various calamities. In a further sign of the cult's activities, major Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said the personnel records of as many as 3,000 managers had fallen into the hands of the cult.
The automobile giant said the records, which included the name, age and position of most managerial officials, were leaked tothe cult when Honda inadvertently ordered new software from an Aum-related company in 1997.
``We were lucky that the information was just on their names, age and positions,'' a Honda spokesman said. The company has not yet decided whether it will stop using the software, he said.
The news follows Tuesday's discovery that Aum members were involved in designing software for computer systems at a number of ministries and several major private companies.
The ministries and the companies were unaware of the Aum connection because the cult used related companies and acted as subcontractors. Police said up to 100 firms may have bought software from Aum-related companies.
Another user of the cult-developed software, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) (9432.T), said it had stopped using the programme temporarily and was checking for dangers to its security system.
``We believe there are no problems, but if it poses any danger we wont't hesitate to replace it,'' a spokesman said.
Both the public and the police fear the cult may stage a comeback, even though its charismatic leader, Shoko Asahara, has been in custody for several years on murder charges.
A law passed last year does not name Aum but targets the activities of any group that has engaged in ``indiscriminate mass murder'' in the past 10 years.
Aum has responded to the hostility by changing its name and insisting it is now a harmless religious group.
(Kyodo News Service, March 2, 2000)
UTSUNOMIYA, Japan, March 2 (Kyodo) - Local education officials in Tochigi and Saitama prefectures decided Thursday to allow children of AUM Shinrikyo cult members to attend local schools.
Authorities in the village of Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, had earlier refused to allow the 6-year-old twin daughters of former senior AUM member Hisako Ishii to enter an elementary school in the village despite the fact the children had been legal residents of the village since January 1998.
But due to pressure from the central government, the village decided to let the children attend the school after holding a special committee board meeting Wednesday.
The other case involves the children of AUM founder Shoko Asahara in Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture.
Last September, the education board of the village of Tokigawa denied Ishii's daughters admission to a local school, citing fears of trouble within the school and the strong opposition toward the cult among local residents.
Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, in urging the board to reverse its decision, said last month, ''We can fully understand the anxiety of local residents, but children's right to education needs to be respected.'' Education committee board members in Tokigawa are also considering having the children educated at home as an option, due to strong opposition from other parents and to avoid any problems which may arise over the children's admittance to a regular school.
''We had no choice but to come up with such decisions due to the pressure and sentiments of many sectors of society, including civic and human rights groups,'' said a board member.
The twins' mother is currently serving a jail sentence for an AUM-related crime. She had earlier sued the board, seeking a court order for it to retract its rejection of her children.
The suit claimed that the decision violated Article 26 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to education.
The twins live at an AUM facility in the village.
Meanwhile, Otawara's education board decided at an emergency meeting Thursday to admit Asahara's son, 5, and 10-year-old daughter to a local school provided Otawara's municipal office approve a request made on the children's behalf for their addresses to be registered in the city.
''We have our own misgivings about our acceptance of the children, but we had no choice but to do this in order to uphold the constitutional right to education,'' board Chairman Yuko Hihara told a news conference.
Still, the board plans to set out special conditions for the children's admittance, including banning them from wearing cult uniforms and forbidding AUM members from entering school premises.
''We will ask them to wear the same uniform as the other children,'' a board member said.
(Kyodo News Service, March 2, 2000)
TOKYO, March 2 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult obtained a list of some 3,000 senior officials of Honda Motor Co. through a computer software company linked to the cult, the Metropolitan Police Department said Thursday.
The department said it suspects the company obtained the list, including the officials' full names, ages and titles, when the company received orders for personnel management systems from the automaker in 1997.
Police are investigating whether any criminal act was committed in the course of the cult's acquisition of the list, the department added.
The list was confiscated during a Jan. 24 raid on five AUM-related facilities in connection with the arrest of a senior AUM member on suspicion that he threatened a Tokyo bank branch that refused to let the cult open an account under its new name, Aleph.
Honda said the data did not contain private information about the officials, adding it is conducting an inquiry into the software company and plans to tighten its information management guidelines.
The revelation follows Tuesday's bombshell that a computer software company in Tokyo linked to AUM developed systems for a number of government ministries and major companies.
The Tokyo company provided systems to more than 90 entities, including the Defense Agency, Construction Ministry, Education Ministry and Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, police had said.
Police said Tuesday they had confiscated from an AUM-linked company data on several thousand senior officials of large enterprises.
Police said they suspect that company acquired the data when it received orders for personnel management systems for senior officials of the enterprises.
Security authorities said they will investigate the case thoroughly.
The cult owns at least five computer companies in which about 40 AUM members work to develop computer software.
The security authorities suspect the cult tried to steal important data from the ministries and major companies, and that the five AUM-owned companies' computer system business was an important source of funds for the cult.
by Calvin Sims ("The New York Times", March 2, 2000)
TOKYO, March 1 -- Computer companies affiliated with the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday sect developed software programs for at least 10 government agencies, including the Defense Ministry, and more than 80 major Japanese companies in recent years, police officials said today after a surprise raid on the group's sites on Tuesday.
The discovery has raised widespread fears in Japan that Aum, which killed 12 people five years ago in a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways, has access to sensitive government and corporate computer systems and could engage in acts of "cyberterrorism," the officials said.
Underscoring the immense fear that the sect provokes in Japan, the Defense Ministry and the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, the country's main provider of telephone and Internet service, immediately suspended the use of all computer software developed by companies linked to Aum.
The government said it was considering doing the same at all its agencies.
Among the government agencies affected are those for construction, education and post and telecommunications, according to documents and commuter disks discovered in the raid, the police said.
The authorities said customer ledgers showed that the Japanese companies affected were major players in the electronics, food, banking, transportation and metal manufacturing fields. The most prominent corporate customer was Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, or N.T.T.
Many of the companies and agencies said they had not known they were ordering software from Aum-related concerns because their main suppliers had subcontracted work to businesses affiliated with the sect.
Even though some of the orders were placed under the current government, officials did not come under immediate criticism, in part because the many of the computer companies had concealed their relationship to Aum.
But government agencies and companies that purchased the systems were scrambling today to determine whether their programs were secure.
The authorities said Aum-related companies had developed about 100 types of software, including systems for customer management, airline route management and mainframe computer operations.
Government security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were extremely concerned that Aum could use information gained in developing the programs to cripple vital computer and communications networks at public agencies and corporations.
The officials said they suspected that during the development process, the Aum-related companies could have written features into the software that would allow them to breach so-called fire walls, which serve to prevent invasion of a computer system by outsiders. They said they also feared that the sect could have planted viruses that could shut down these government or corporate computer systems or send recruitment messages.
At least some of the public concern over the Aum-related software was driven by recent security breaches by Internet hackers who posted messages on the Web sites of 11 government agencies. In those incidents, which underscored the vulnerability of the government's computers, the messages criticized Japan's wartime atrocities in China in the 1930's.
But security officials provided no proof today that the Aum sect, which recently changed its name to Aleph and denounced its violent past, had the ability or the ambition to interfere with the computer systems of former customers.
Some Aum members said the officials were trying to vilify the sect when it is seeking to live in peace with Japanese society and to use funds from its computer operations to compensate victims of its past crimes.
"We are surprised," Mikio Aoki, the government's chief spokesman, said at a regular news conference. "We believe that the ministries should check who their suppliers are and that the suppliers should check where the products are made."
The Defense Ministry said it had suspended plans to begin using a new communications system today for the army after the police had informed the ministry that the software had been developed by an Aum company.
A ministry spokesman said that the software system had been installed at 20 ground bases across Japan to provide rapid access to the Internet but that the system was separate from one that handles classified defense information.
"These computers are not connected to a separate internal network that handles more sensitive material," the spokesman said, "so there is no worry that if somebody breaks into it, that there will be a danger or threat to national security."
N.T.T. Communications said it was immediately suspending an electronic greeting card service that the police said had been developed by an Aum affiliate.
The company, a subsidiary of N.T.T., said it was checking the program's source code to make sure that it did not pose any problems. In addition, N.T.T. Communications said it would delay the introduction, planned for this spring, of a service for creating home pages because of a possible link to the sect. The company is reviewing the content of home page software.
"We were shocked to learn that Aum might have been involved in the development of this software," said Fuyuki Natsumeda, a company spokesman. "It was like what we call pouring water into the ear while you are asleep."
Mr. Natsumeda said his company had not contracted directly with Aum for either of the two software programs and that there were four or five levels of subcontracting between the main contractor it had hired and the Aum companies.
"Principally, it's a matter of whether the product is good or bad, but since we are in such a social environment, I don't think that we can just say the product is good and that's all we're concerned about," Mr. Natsumeda said. "If we knew an Aum company was developing the software, we would not want to be involved with it."
Security officials said that while it was not illegal or a violation of government policy to do business with the sect, they were investigating to find out how the software companies had obtained the contracts.
The software companies had a reputation for producing high-quality systems at low prices, and customers were said to be generally pleased with the work. The companies were able to win business by bidding 30 percent to 40 percent below market prices, the officials said, mainly because their employees, who were all Aum members, worked for virtually no pay.
The officials said that more than 40 employees worked at the Aum-related software companies and that many were graduates of prestigious national universities like Tokyo University and Kyoto University, where they studied computer science. Some worked as systems engineers at major software companies before joining the sect.
Government officials and corporate executives said that they would take pains in the future to avoid using Aum companies as subcontractors, but that doing so was likely to increase the costs of procuring some software.
Aum officials declined to comment on the development, which could severely hurt its computer operations, a major source of revenue for the sect and the cornerstone of what its leaders say are plans for the sect to reform itself. The sect has set as a major priority providing compensation for victims of crimes committed by former members.
An Aum member who is familiar with the group's internal workings and who spoke on condition of anonymity said the sect was still trying to confirm the information provided by the police. Even if the information proves to be true, the member said, no harm was done by the sect's providing good products at cheap prices.
"Concerns about cyberterrorism and access to government agency data are being raised by media reports without confirmation," he said. "They are raising the specter of these things just because Aum members are running the shops."
In the past, the police and the tax authorities have said that Aum earns about $65 million a year through the sale of computers at seven affiliated retail stores in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.
Public anxiety over the Aum sect has increased in recent years as it has increased its commercial and recruitment activities. But last year the Government passed a law allowing the police to enter the sect's sites at will to conduct inspections.
In its annual human rights report, the State Department noted this month that while religious freedom is a guaranteed right in Japan, only the Aum sect has been placed under government surveillance and is subject to public pressure.
("Asahi Shimbun", March 2, 2000)
A major Internet service provider placed an order to develop software involving confidential client information with a company linked to Aum Shinrikyo, police officials said Wednesday.
An employee at Internet Initiative Japan Inc. (IIJ) said the company has not confirmed whether the cult has finished developing the software. He said IIJ will look into the case.
Police found documents showing that members of Aum Shinrikyo, which has renamed itself Aleph, were involved in developing software for IIJ.
The documents were found during an investigation into a cult-related computer company that has been accused of registering a false address for its main office.
Police also revealed Tuesday that Aum-linked companies have received similar orders from NTT group companies.
Investigators are now focusing on Aum's interest in the field of telecommunication and information technology, and the possible threat of cyber-terrorism.
According to the IIJ employee, the software being developed by the Aum members was aimed at demanding and collecting Internet access fees from IIJ's 108,499 clients.
Such software involved confidential information of IIJ clients, such as names, bank account numbers and credit card numbers, the employee said.
Police said five Aum-related companies developed computer-system software for 80 firms and central and local governments.
Police also said the cult-related firms created basic software for large computers at NEC Corp. and the ticket-selling system for East Japan Railway Co.
NTT Communications Corp. said Wednesday it has suspended the ``Greeting Card System'' online service that used software developed by a company affiliated with Aum.
NTT Communications said it indirectly placed an order with the cult-related firm.
(Kyodo News Service, March 2, 2000)
TOKYO, March 2 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult submitted a report Thursday to the Public Security Investigation Agency, saying it has a total of 935 followers and owns 26 buildings and land plots.
AUM filed the report in accordance with a law enacted in December to crack down on the group.
The document included AUM members' names and addresses and details of its properties. It also said the group uses an additional 22 facilities for its activities and has about 25 million yen in cash.
AUM consists of 23 senior members, including leader Tatsuko Muraoka, 570 live-in followers, and 365 others, the report said. The cult excluded AUM founder Shoko Asahara from the list, saying he resigned as leader in 1996 and that the cult now regards him as a ''spiritual being.''
Asahara, 45, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial in 17 criminal cases which include the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
Clarification of the cult's activities is required under the law which puts the group under surveillance by security authorities. Falsifying the report could lead to a partial ban on its activities.
The security agency will examine the report to see whether it is false or not. Local governments housing AUM facilities are able to file requests to see the report to obtain information which would not violate followers' privacy.
Meanwhile, senior AUM member Fumihiro Joyu on Thursday denied allegations that computer software companies affiliated to the cult have received orders from government bodies and major companies to develop systems in order to
obtain important data about them.
Joyu told a press conference at the cult's Yokohama office that AUM followers are individually engaged in such computer businesses to raise funds to compensate victims of crimes committed by AUM, adding the group transferred 10 million yen Thursday to a bank account of AUM's administrator as compensation money.
He denied that the cult is directly involved in the management of five software firms, which have about 20 full-time staff, and said the companies' monthly net profits totaling some 5 million yen are used to compensate the victims.
Joyu said the firms' activities were ''merely economic and not based on malicious intent,'' and that the cult is ''not interested'' in information handled by companies run by its followers.
The senior AUM member also clarified that some cult followers are individually engaged in sales of compact disks and water purification equipment.
(BBC News, March 1, 2000)
Thousands of people were injured in the 1995 attack Japan's Defence Agency has delayed the introduction of a new computer system after discovering that it used software developed by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.
The discovery has prompted fears that the cult - which carried out the fatal gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 - could use the software to infiltrate government computers and gain access to vital defence information. Tokyo police said the Defence Agency was one of 90 government bodies and private firms which had ordered software produced by the cult.
A Defence Agencyspokesman told the AFP news agency: "We had been expecting to introduce the system today but halted the plan for the time being as it is too dangerous. "Nobody knows what they have done to the system and we need to check it thoroughly." Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki told a news conference: "It should not be impossible to replace the software with that developed by other companies." The Defence Agency signed a contract for the computer system with the Japan Electronic Computer Co Ltd last October.
The company, which is not linked to Aum, was to supply the system linking networks at 20 army garrisons across Japan, giving them internet and e-mail access, the defence agency spokesman said. However, the computer firm "told us they had discovered one of the subbcontractors they used was linked to Aum". The spokesman said the Defence Agency was "investigating whether Aum members, under the pretext of developing software for the agency, had a chance to figure out ways to break the firewall" that prevents illicit access to its networks. Tokyo police said software firms run by Aum members had also provided products for the Construction Ministry, the Education Ministry, and the Post and telecommunications Ministry. Raids The deals were discovered on Tuesday after police launched raids on eight apartments belonging to cult members.
Local reports said about 40 Aum followers were operating five software companies and conducted sales activities covering 500 major companies by offering large discounts.
Twelve people were killed and thousands more were injured when Aum launched the sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway system in March 1995.
Aum preached that the world was coming toan end and the cult must arm itself. However in January this year, the cult issued a statement deposing jailed Shoko Asahara as leader, changing its name to Aleph, and vowing to introduce reforms - which included a promise to obey the law.
by Gillian Tett and Michiyo Nakamoto ("Financial Times", March 1, 2000)
The Japanese government has ordered an urgent review of its computer systems after it emerged that members of Aum Shinri Kyo, a doomsday cult, have inadvertantly been used to design and install sensitive government software.
The involvement of Aum members could have potentially allowed the cult to infiltrate government systems and gather information on matters such as national defence, security officials said on Wednesday.
The cult, recently renamed Aleph, is accused of having conducted a 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway which killed 12 people and left hundreds injured. It has not commented on the case.
Government officials claimed on Tuesday that no damage had been done to national security interests. Though the software was on the verge of being activated in the Defence Agency, the government had ordered an immediate ban on all Aum-linked software, Mikio Aoki, cabinet secretary, said. "It should not be impossible to replace this with the software developed by other companies," he said.
However, the revelation is an embarrassing blow for the government, which has been attempting to clamp down on Aum since the 1995 attack. Hideharu Ishikawa, president of Artemis, a security company, said: "Aum could have done anything - install mechanisms inside the (government) network to allow them remote access, or even to create a network malfunction." The news is likely to fuel concern that Japan is still ill-equipped to address security problems in the fast-developing information technology world. Earlier this year hackers invaded a large number of Japanese government computers systems, with apparent ease, leaving derogatory messages about World War Two.
"Japan is still naïve about many security issues - let us hope that the Aum (case) is a wake up call," said one Western security expert on Wednesday.
The case arose because Aum members have recently started a series of computing businesses to earn revenue for the group. These did not usually identify themselves with Aum, and the police appear to have been unaware of their activities until they conducted a raid on one Aum member on Wednesday.
Police said on Wednesday that about 90 government agencies and private companies had used Aum-linked software, often through sub-contractors. The Defence Agency, for example, was due to start operating Aum-linked software this week to handle communications between the Ground Self Defence Force and outside networks. Although this software did not handle classified military matters, Aum could potentially have used the access to gain information of many military matters, security officials say.
Nippon Telegraph and Telecommunications said on Wednesday that it had also inadvertantly used Aum-linked software for a variety of programmes, including a service which allows users to send greeting cards through the internet. NTT said it was investigating whether customer privacy had been breached.
The origins of the software had not been immediately evident since NTT had only had direct contact with software companies with no connection to Aum, officials said. It was these companies that had subcontracted development to Aum companies.
("Asahi Shimbun", March 1, 2000)
Five companies linked to the Aum Shinrikyo cult received orders to develop software for various computer systems of four government ministries and more than 80 major companies, police officials said Tuesday.
Police say the link to Aum created the possibility of a cyber-terrorism threat targeting company or organizational networks and in-house systems.
The software developed by the five companies included that for online systems for financial institutions, personnel management for private companies and client administration, possibly giving the developers access to sensitive information.
All five software firms related to Aum, now renamed Aleph, were housed in condominiums in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward.
The ministries and companies said they did not realize they were ordering system software from Aum-linked companies.
Police were today to start questioning the ministries and firms regarding ordering procedures.
The Defense Agency, the Education Ministry, the Construction Ministry and the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry all ordered software from the firms..
Companies that ordered the software included major players in the electronics, food, banking, transportation and metal manufacturing fields. NTT group companies also ordered software from the firms.
At the Defense Agency, the firms installed a system to link computers at 10 bases across the nation for the Ground Self-Defense Forces, the officials said.
The system enables the forces to send and receive data interactively while also preventing hackers from penetrating the agency's system, officials said..
The agency said the system does not allow its developer to access confidential defense and strategic information. However, they said it is technically possible that an outsider could access less sensitive agency computers. The system was to begin operating today. That plan has been shelved, officials said.
("Mainichi Shimbun", March 1, 2000)
Central government ministries and agencies as well as about 80 major companies have placed orders for computer software developed by an affiliate of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) found Tuesday.
They apparently bought 100 different types of software developed by the affiliate of AUM, which now calls itself Aleph.
These organizations were apparently unaware that the software had been developed by the AUM affiliate because they placed orders via other companies. However, the revelations are likely to create a stir because they ended up indirectly helping the cult to raise funds for its activities.
According to investigations conducted by the MPD's Public Security Division, the bodies that placed such orders include the Defense Agency, the Construction Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, the Adachi Ward Government in Tokyo, the Japan Information Processing Development Center, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and NTT DoCoMo.
All the other private companies are also leading firms in the communications, electric machinery, food, financial and other important sectors, investigators said.
(Kyodo News Service, March 1, 2000)
OSAKA, March 1 (Kyodo) - Osaka preparatory school Aleph will change its name April 1 due to the AUM Shinrikyo cult's recently announced alias, school officials said Wednesday.
The school said it plans to start calling itself ''Mebio.'' The move will cost the school about 15 million yen, including costs to make new signboards and place advertisements in newspapers to publicize the name change, the officials said.
It had considered asking AUM to pay the costs but gave up the idea due to expected legal difficulties, they said.
The cult announced in January it would change its name to Aleph. Since then, the schools' students have voiced concerns that colleges and universities to which they apply to enter may mistake them for AUM members.
The school specializes in preparing high school students and graduates to study medicine and dentistry at colleges and universities.
Companies bearing the name Aleph have also expressed frustration over AUM's announcement. Some have said they will be forced to change their names.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and a number of other cultists have been charged with murder, kidnapping and many other crimes, including the March 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway, in which 12 were killed and thousands were injured.
(Kyodo News Service, March 1, 2000)
TOKYO, March 1 (Kyodo) - Member firms of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) group will stop using computer-system software allegedly developed by firms linked to the AUM Shinrikyo cult if the truth of the allegations is confirmed, the NTT head said Wednesday.
''Should we find such software...as a result of checks, we will replace it,'' NTT President Junichiro Miyazu told a news conference.
Four NTT group companies have allegedly placed a total of 10 orders for computer systems with software development companies linked to AUM, the doomsday cult accused of a March 1995 gas attack on Tokyo's subway system.
In the gas attack, 12 people were killed and thousands injured.
The four NTT firms are now seeking to verify the allegations, Miyazu said.
As a general rule, NTT ''follows a policy of allowing developers to supply, as long as we find they conform to our technological specifications and are cheap,'' Miyazu said.
But if such firms are proven to have ties with the AUM cult, NTT would regard business transactions with them as possibly ''having dangerous side effects'' for society, he said.
His remarks came a day after police disclosed that several computer software companies linked to AUM developed about 100 systems for some 90 major companies and central and local government ministries, including the Defense Agency.
by George Nishiyama (Reuters, March 1, 2000)
TOKYO, March 1 (Reuters) - Japan said on Wednesday it had told government ministries, including the Defence Agency to stop using computer software developed with the doomsday cult accused of a fatal 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
The discovery of the software in computer systems at a number of ministries and several major private companies came on Tuesday, just a day before the systems were due to be activated at the Defence Agency, police said.
``It should not be impossible to replace the software with that developed by other companies,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki told a news conference.
The embarrassing discovery that members of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult had been involved in designing the software came after a series of hacker raids on government computers in January and leap year computer glitches on Tuesday.
Analysts said the cult may have been just a step away from infiltrating government computers and getting its hands on vital information, including defence.
In the 1995 gas attack on Tokyo's subway system, 12 people were killed and thousands injured. Aum preached that the world was coming to an end and the cult must arm itself.
Defence officials said the agency had been unaware of the possible Aum link and had had no direct contract with the cult.
But they said Aum members took part in installing the new system, which would have handled communication between the Ground Self-Defence Force and outside networks.
AUM MAY HAVE HAD BACK DOOR
Computer experts said this could have given Aum a back door into the networks.
``Aum could have done anything -- install mechanisms inside the network to allow them remote access or even to create a network malfunction,'' said Hideharu Ishikawa, president of Artemis, a computer security firm.
Introduction of the software system had been postponed indefinitely, pending checks, Defence Agency officials said.
While classified military and other strategic information was stored in a closed-off secure computer network, Aum could have easily read e-mail exchanges between the agency and outside networks, Ishikawa said.
``Those who develop networks are obviously allowed access because they need to do so for maintenance,'' said Ishikawa, a former hacker-turned-computer security expert.
JAPAN'S COMPUTER SECURITY UNDER SCRUTINY
``It's further evidence that crisis management by ministries, especially on computers, is very poor,'' said Masakatu Morii, a Tokushima University professor specialising in computer networks.
In January, hackers raided several government ministry systems, leaving derogatory messages about Japan's World War Two record and introducing links to pornographic sites.
While the Defence Agency does have a department that deals with computer-related issues, many ministries and private firms in high-tech Japan lack experts able to make the proper checks, Morii said.
A ministry as important as the Defence Agency should have its own computer technicians to develop networks, rather than hiring an outside firm, said Ishikawa of Artemis.
The computer business has been a major source of income for Aum, which used to run a string of discount computer shops. It is believed to have shifted recently to software development and is said to offer products at prices well below those of competitors.
Because Aum used related companies and acted as a subcontractor, ministries would have been unaware of the Aum connection, computer experts said.
The transactions were listed in documents found in a police raid on an Aum-linked company on Tuesday.
(Kyodo News Service, March 1, 2000)
TOKYO, March 1 (Kyodo) - The government will consider suspending the use by ministries and agencies of computer software developed by companies linked to the AUM Shinrikyo cult, Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said Wednesday.
''It should not be impossible to use software developed by other companies,'' the top government spokesman said at a news conference. Ministries and agencies will consider suspending the use of software developed by AUM-related firms, he said.
Police revealed Tuesday that several computer software companies linked to AUM developed about 100 systems for some 90 central and local government ministries and major companies.
The Defense Agency, Construction Ministry, Education Ministry and Posts and Telecommunications Ministry were among those that awarded contracts to the companies, according to police.
Many of the companies' clients say they did not know the companies were related with AUM. AUM now calls itself Aleph.
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