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Japan to wind up COCOA coronavirus contact-tracing app

A smartphone screen showing Japan's coronavirus contact-tracing app COCOA is seen in this April 16, 2021, file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will disable its COCOA coronavirus contact-tracing app, Digital Minister Taro Kono revealed at a post-Cabinet meeting news conference on Sept. 13.

    It has not been decided yet when the app will be discontinued, he added.

    The move comes as the Japanese government simplifies its policy to confirm COVID-19 patients' names and other details. "The premise for using COCOA will change along with the rules, so COCOA will be disabled," Kono said.

    The app was launched in June 2020 as the pandemic took hold in Japan. Using smartphones' Bluetooth short-range communications function, the app registers possible contacts with people who have tested positive for the virus, all anonymously. According to the health ministry, COCOA had been downloaded 40.55 million times as of Sept. 9 this year.

    However, the app had a spate of technical problems soon after its launch, such as failing to notify users of close contacts with infected people. Kono stated, "We're aware that there were various inconveniences caused by mismanagement of COCOA from the beginning." He added the government would examine the app's performance including its failures and apply the lessons learned to any future pandemic.

    In other Digital Agency-related news, Kono revealed that problems reaching the agency's "e-Gov" online administrative services website on Sept. 6 were likely caused by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack -- a cyberattack that overwhelms a server with a flood of access requests.

    While pro-Russian hacker group Killnet hinted on messaging app Telegram that they had caused the disruption, the digital minister declined to give any further details, saying, "The details of the attack and our response would reveal our strategy, and that would give our opponents an advantage. So we will basically not be revealing that."

    Kono also said that the system glitch that occurred on Sept. 7 was caused by a technical problem within the Digital Agency, not an outside attack.

    (Japanese original by Atsuo Yamaguchi, Business News Department)

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