Prosecutors end hacking probe with no suspects

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Prosecutors end hacking probe with no suspects

Investigators are at a loss in handling Internet hacking and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that use IP addresses in China.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office recently called off an investigation into the SK Communications hacking case where the personal information of about 35 million subscribers was leaked by an unidentified hacker.

“We made the decision because we weren’t able to find any suspects,” the prosecution told reporters on Monday. Police that had been investigating the case when the prosecution found that the unidentified hacker used IP addresses in China, but failed to find the suspect’s whereabouts.

In late July 2011, major Korean portal site Nate and social networking site Cyworld were hacked. Both are managed by SK Communications.

The hackers gained access to IDs, names, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses, encrypted social security numbers and encrypted passwords of an estimated 35 million users.

SK Communications is not the only victim.

In November last year, another unidentified hacker broke into the backup server for Nexon Korea’s online game MapleStory, leaking personal information of around 13.2 million users, including user names, resident registration numbers and passwords.

Nexon is an Internet game provider founded in Korea, and MapleStory is the world’s first side-scrolling massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The case was closed earlier this month by prosecutors.

When the official Web site of the National Election Commission was under a DDoS attack right before the April general election and EBS, the state-run education broadcasting network, was hacked in May, hackers accessed corporate databases by using IP addresses in China.

According to the Korea Internet Security Agency, 87.7 percent of cases of hacking in which databases in Korea were attacked came from IP addresses based overseas, and 59.3 percent of them used Chinese IP addresses.

The prosecution said they are cooperating with the Chinese government on the recently closed case so they can re-launch the investigation if the Chinese government finds any suspects.

“But we have to at least identify hackers when hacking is in operation or right after the attack,” a spokesman for the prosecution told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It’s almost impossible to track them down.”

The prosecution also has not assigned blame to corporations including SK Communications for the hacking.

“We can’t judge whether the attacked corporations managed their database poorly without specific suspects,” a spokesman for the prosecution said.

By Moon Byung-joo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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