Probe into deletion of infoSeoul prosecutors investigating an illegal surveillance and abuse of power scandal by the prime minister’s office said yesterday they believe information was deleted off hard drive disks from six computers seized during their probe through a method called degaussing.
Degaussing, which involves using a highly magnetic device to demagnetize hard drives, is used to erase information from hard drive disks and render them unusable. Methods to restore information from degaussed hard drives have not yet been developed, and because of this reason, degaussing is usually done before discarding data storage devices to protect information.
The prosecutors said they are looking into businesses that own degaussers, focusing on the Yongsan electronics district to track down the employee from the prime minister’s office who they believe is responsible for the erasure, along with the help of closed circuit television footage and cell phone records.
“The accused can say the disks were degaussed at a prior date for information protection, because you can’t tell when the degaussing took place,” said Prof. Lee Sang-jin, an expert of information management at Korea University. “There have been many cases where important information was copied elsewhere and hidden before hard drive disks were wiped out to hinder criminal investigations. The success of the prosecutors’ investigation depends on whether they find the hidden information.”
Prosecutors believe that the information consisted mostly of records used by lower employees at the office to report to higher authorities on illegal surveillance of private citizens.
They said the identity of the employee would lead to the identification of the higher authorities in charge of ordering the illegal surveillance.
Jin Gyeong-rak, an employee of the prime minister’s office, will likely be summoned for questioning soon for his connections to the Blue House, prosecutors said. Jin was a former administrative officer under Lee Young-ho, the presidential secretary for employment and labor affairs, before working at the prime minister’s office. He was accused in late July of reporting to Lee on details of the investigation.
Meanwhile, prosecutors discounted accusations made by Grand National Party lawmakers Nam Kyung-pil and Jeong Tae-keun. Nam has insisted his wife had been under illegal surveillance by the prime minister’s ethics office and the National Intelligence Service, while Jeong has said he, too, had been investigated secretly.
By Choi Sun-wook, Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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