The onslaught of cyber asylum

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The onslaught of cyber asylum

For a few days now, the Telegram app on my phone has been showing that my friends have joined the service. Created by a Russian developer, Telegram has its servers in Germany, and the Korean investigative agency cannot easily access messages. After the counterterrorism bill was passed on March 2, users of KakaoTalk and Line are increasingly moving to Telegram. The so-called second waves of cyber asylum feel real now.

While cyber asylum sounds like a foreign phenomenon, it is actually unique to Korean users. In October 2014, it was revealed that prosecutors and police investigators looked into KakaoTalk messages, and many users moved to Telegram. Telegram users in Korea nearly doubled from 1.38 million in the last week of September to 2.62 million a week later. And KakaoTalk users decreased by 1.1 million, from 26.64 million to 25.53 million in a week. Less than a year later, the counterterrorism act was passed, and the panic has returned.

Until recently, Canada’s BlackBerry devices had a faithful following. Most notably, U.S. President Barack Obama is an avid BlackBerry user, and despite the rule that prohibits the president from having a personal mobile phone, he insisted on continuing to use the device.

In the end, the White House security team enhanced security features on the device. What earned Obama’s loyalty was the unbreakable security of the BlackBerry device. Not just the phone conversations but also emails and messages go through the servers in Canada with enhanced security that makes hacking challenging. While the new technologies on smartphones are amusing, consumers also value security.

Today, the security issues of Korean messenger services make users uncomfortable. In the United States, iPhone users welcome Apple’s decision to protect user privacy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation requested Apple’s assistance in unlocking iPhone security features to crack down on terrorist suspects, and Apple appealed and the case is still being litigated.

When privacy protection is lax, users will leave for another service without hesitation. Who would use KakaoTalk if there were any amount of concern for leaking private information? How will consumers respond if Apple’s strategy to secure the iPhone’s encryption succeeds?

Those who value privacy are likely to choose iPhones. The counterterrorism act has already been passed, and Korean messenger services like KakaoTalk and Line and mobile phone makers Samsung and LG will be hit directly.

The author is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 7, Page 35


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