Door code made breaches possible
But he did benefit from insider carelessness. The reason the man was able to penetrate the office of the personnel management section of the Ministry of the Interior was because the security door code was scrawled on a wall next to the keypad-access door.
And at a briefing Thursday, police said government officials tried covering up its embarrassing laxness.
According to the police, an official at the Ministry of the Interior in charge of security management ordered cleaners to erase the security door code written on the wall of the office before the case was reported on April 1. That’s when the ministry told police that a computer was hacked and a test score of the man, identified by the surname Song, was changed.
The police said it was likely that maintenance workers scrawled the door code on the wall so that they could get in to clean the offices.
The minister and deputy minister of the Ministry of Personnel Management have not responded to phone calls from JoongAng Ilbo reporters.
But maintenance crew at the government complex contradict the police. A 68-year-old cleaner who is in charge of cleaning the 16th floor of the government complex - where Song broke into offices to change his score - told the JoongAng Ilbo that she has never seen the door code on the wall. She added that maintenance workers don’t even clean those offices because government officials do it themselves.
Maintenance workers usually clean offices between 6:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. before officials come to work.
Song, who has studied for the test to select new government officials for almost three years and delayed his graduation from university, visited the government offices five times before and after the written exam for Grade 7 positions that was given March 5.
The police said his first attempt to break into the complex was on Feb. 28, when he tried unsuccessfully to steal the test before it was administered. He got past the front gate of the complex by blending in with a crowd of policemen returning from leave on a Sunday afternoon.
In order to get into an office in the 19-story building, one has to pass at least three security checks: at the front door, a metal detector and a so-called speed gate to check identity cards. Without an identity card, a visitor must be accompanied by an official who works at one of the ministries.
For his first attempt on Feb. 28, he stole an identity card from a gym on the first floor of the government complex but couldn’t get into the 16th floor office since he didn’t know the door code.
After taking the exam, Song knew he had performed poorly. He again went to the government complex three times in March - on the 6th, 24th, and 26th - and on April 1. He acted like an official by using several more identity cards he stole from the gym and wearing open-toe sandals, as many Korean office workers do during the day.
After he took the exam, he could break into the office on March 6 and 24, but failed to hack into a computer that contained the test scores.
On March 26, he breached the section’s offices, hacked into its computer with programs he brought along on a USB drive that could delete CMOS passwords, a level of security that is activated after a computer is turned on and before an operating system such as Windows loads.
At the end of March, the personnel management ministry reposted an announcement of qualifications for the exam on its website, a usual procedure.
But Song thought his hacking had been discovered. On April 1, he wanted to get into the office to check the computer file and see if he had been caught. But the door code on the wall had been erased.
BY PARK MIN-JE, SUNG SI-YOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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