Hacked personal data originating from China

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Hacked personal data originating from China

Have you ever wondered why you get so many unwanted spam text messages and e-mails? The answer might be found in China.

A 22-year-old Korean man named Kim is under arrest for purchasing lists of Koreans’ personal information, such as cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses, which had been hacked in China. After spending 1 million won ($880) for 31 million items of data since July of last year, Kim posted an Internet ad and sold off 10 million such items.

A 27-year-old man Lee, who runs a branch for an Internet service provider, was one of the buyers. He spent 3 million won for 140,000 phone numbers for his branch’s telemarketing scheme.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency took in Kim and Lee without physical detention, and also detained the owners of the companies that failed to protect their customer information from computer hackers.

Last September, a used-car trading Web site and the Internet home page for a car navigation manufacturer were victims of Chinese hackers who stole names and residential registration numbers of 910,000 online members. Hackers can use the stolen registration numbers to become members of certain Web sites that send spam messages, or sell the numbers to other hackers.

Seoul police charged a 32-year-old named Kim, the owner of the used-car site, and a 45-year-old named Lee, who runs the navigation maker, for negligence in protecting their customers’ information.

The law demands that companies protect their online customers’ information, and violations are punishable by a maximum of two years in prison or a 10 million won fine.

“This is the first case in which we applied this particular clause since it became effective in September 2008,” a police officer explained. “Protecting personal information is a legal obligation, not merely a recommendation. We will continue to charge companies that leave their customer information vulnerable to hacking.”

According to police, Chinese hackers have been targeting Web sites of Korean department stores and other frequently visited sites. The hackers offer the Korean information for sale on the Internet.

By Park Sung-woo [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
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