Data worries must not go too far

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Data worries must not go too far

The worst-ever leak of personal information from accounts held by KB Kookmin Card, Lotte Card, and NH Nonghyup Card - feared to have affected nearly half the population - has led to a catastrophic credit crisis and deep distrust. The government has been grinding out one strong regulatory measure after another, but brokers are still fill cyberspace with bold offers to buy and sell stolen personal information and data. During a JoongAng Ilbo investigation, reporters were easily able to get in contact with brokers claiming to own stolen credit card information. They offered to sell sets of an individual’s card numbers, bank card security codes and pin numbers for 100,000 won ($92.56). One kindly offered to update the information when things wound down after the Lunar New Year holidays. That information was separate from the client data was stolen and leaked from the three credit card companies.

Financial scams and crimes thrive despite the crackdown. The National Police Agency over the weekend caught a group of hackers who pocketed a total of 90 million won from 81 people by digging into their online banking details. Police also are investigating a crime ring suspected of taking about 400 million won from 65 people through voice phishing and other fraudulent means. Thefts of personal and client information are rampant regardless of enforcement. Who can trust online financial services? But we cannot suddenly go back to the old days and visit banks for all our financial services. We need a fundamental makeover in our financial security and protection system.

The government’s actions to ease consumers’ fears so far have been makeshift and half-baked. They started with fines, business suspensions and criminal punishment, but kept growing, and now people have to confirm the pin number of their credit card for pizza or chicken deliveries. Authorities are mulling restrictions on the gathering, storing and use of client information. All these regulations may help ease consumer fury and anxiety for now, but they are not a fundamental solution. They can end up ruining our hard-built credit-based society and damage the country’s competitive information and telecommunications technology.

The illegal use and trade of personal information must be stopped and punished. Credit card companies must take responsibility for the latest disaster. They issued cards haphazardly - even handing them out on the street - and pocketed massive profits from high interest rates. They must rebuild their security systems and work hard to earn back consumer trust. Financial authorities also must share culpability. But that should not interfere with technology development and improvement in services and infrastructure. The security and use of information is a two-sided coin. An emotional hunt for scapegoats that restricts and strengthens controls on information could hurt the IT industry, including the big data and Internet sectors the government wants to foster the future economy.

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