Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Hacker steals N Korean defectors’ data in South

PERSONAL INFORMATION:The names, birth dates and addresses of 997 people had been stolen through malware planted at an agency that helps defectors

Reuters, SEOUL

The personal information of nearly 1,000 North Koreans who defected to South Korea has been leaked after unknown hackers got access to a resettlement agency’s database, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said yesterday.

The ministry said it discovered last week that the names, birth dates and addresses of 997 defectors had been stolen through a computer infected with malicious software at an agency called the Hana center in the southern city of Gumi.

“The malware was planted through e-mails sent by an internal address,” a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the issue, referring to a Hana center e-mail account.

The Hana center is among 25 institutes the ministry runs across the nation to help about 32,000 defectors adjust to life in the richer, democratic South by providing jobs, medical and legal support.

Defectors, most of whom risked their lives to flee poverty and political oppression, are a source of shame for North Korea.

Its state media often denounces them as “human scum” and accuses South Korean spies of kidnapping some of them.

The ministry official declined to say if North Korea was believed to have been behind the hack, or what the motive might have been, saying a police investigation was under way to determine who did it.

North Korean hackers have in the past been accused of cyberattacks on South Korean state agencies and businesses.

Pyongyang stole classified documents from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense and a shipbuilder last year, while a cryptocurrency exchange filed for bankruptcy following a cyberattack linked to the North.

North Korean state media have denied those cyberattacks.

The latest data breach comes at a delicate time for the two Koreas, which have been rapidly improving their relations after years of confrontation.

The unification ministry said it was notifying the affected defectors and there were no reports of any negative impact of the data breach.

“We’re sorry this has happened and will make efforts to prevent it from recurring,” the official said.

Several defectors, including one who became a South Korean television celebrity, have disappeared in recent years only to turn up later in North Korean state media, criticizing South Korea and the fate of defectors.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top