Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Real-estate agents accused of selling personal data

By Ou Su-mei and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

An Investigation Bureau officer speaks at a news conference in Taichung on Thursday.

Photo: Ou Su-mei, Taipei Times

Two former real-estate agents in Taichung were detained on Thursday for allegedly selling software containing 170 million items of personal information, including of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

The Investigation Bureau said the software can crack pattern recognition systems used as a security measure on many software platforms.

The bureau advised government departments to upgrade software security measures, saying that current systems are vulnerable to exploitation by the software.

The Executive Yuan previously identified 90 apps in use by government officials that are vulnerable.

The bureau established a task force in March after receiving a tip-off that a group was illegally selling personal information.

The task force, comprised of 200 investigators, on Wednesday initiated a search of 62 locations nationwide, questioning individuals linked to the case and seizing electronic equipment.

Investigators said two suspects, surnamed Liang (梁) and Su (蘇), were taken into custody, while several computers seized in the operation each contained upward of 200 gigabytes of personal information.

Liang and Su are former coworkers, each with more than 20 years of experience in real estate, investigators said, adding that both recently left their jobs due to an economic downturn.

Liang, who is knowledgeable about information technology, developed the software, with the two allegedly intending to sell it to real-estate agents for profit.

Liang told investigators he acquired the personal information over the course of his career.

The two allegedly found buyers for the program through messaging app Line, on which they advertised it as a “time-saving client search system.”

More than 300 buyers purchased the software, each paying between NT$150,000 and NT$200,000, investigators said, adding that once installed, the software gave users access to the personal information of landowners, allowing them to increase profits by avoiding contact with brokers.

The bureau said the public should avoid the use of illegally obtained personal information, which could lead to criminal charges in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act (個人資料保護法).

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