Cyworld's return delayed once again as hackers attack

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Cyworld's return delayed once again as hackers attack

A photo of Cyworld's new 3D minihompy, a virtual space where users can decorate and place their avatars. [CYWORLD Z]

A photo of Cyworld's new 3D minihompy, a virtual space where users can decorate and place their avatars. [CYWORLD Z]

 
Just hours before it was to make its return, Cyworld delayed the reopening of its service due to hacking attempts.  
 
Once Korea's most popular social network site, Cyworld ran out of funding in 2019 as Facebook, Instagram and others flooded the market. At one time, the service, which was started in 1999, had 25 million users.
 
The service was to be switched on again at 6p.m. on Monday in a beta version that would have allowed users to view old photos, posts, comments and remaining dotori - a Cyworld cybermoney. Refund requests were also planned, with one dotori equivalent of 100 won (8.8 cents).
 
Cyworld Z, a consortium of five local entertainment companies that acquired Cyworld, teamed up with extended reality (XR) company FXGear in February and restored the lost data and developed a new mobile application service. As of early July, 17 billion photos and 150 million videos were restored.
 
Two and a half hours before users were to be allowed to go through an ID and password recovery process to access their old accounts, Cyworld Z said that reopening was off for now as its servers had been attacked by foreign hackers 30 times on Sunday and 80 times the following day.  
 
The company said that the switching on the beta version would be pushed to Aug. 2, while the official opening, which will allow for uploads and chatting, will happen on Aug. 4. In the meantime, security will be strengthened to prevent hacking.
 
Although there was no data breach, Cyworld Z plans to check the effectiveness of and enhance its security system.  
 
This is just the latest setback for the service. It was to be initially switched on in March, but that was postponed to May, and then to July. In 2011, the service was hacked and information on 35 million users was leaked.
 
"Upgrading the security system takes time, money and will extend the long wait of our users," said a spokesperson for Cyworld Z. "Nevertheless, we decided to upgrade our security system to the highest standards in order to prevent leaking of private information prior or after the service launch."
 
If Cyworld's service successfully returns on August 4, users will see an upgraded version of Cyworld. The company uploaded a video to YouTube on July 2 introducing the 3D “minihompy” – a virtual space where users can decorate and place their avatars. The original minihompy was a 2D space.
 
Despite some changes, the design of avatars will remain just the way many users will remember them. The character still maintains their original pixelated look, short height and simple facial features, unlike virtual avatars in the Zepeto metaverse that closely resemble a real human being.
 
The video also gave users a peek at Cyworld’s mobile application. One of Cyworld’s weaknesses was that it was a PC-only service – standing no chance against Instagram and Facebook that could be conveniently accessed on a smartphone application. The users will be able to access their minihompy via mobile application to chat with friends, upload photos and move their avatars around the virtual space.  
 
Teaming up with SNU AI Lab and image restoration servicer Espreso Media, Cyworld Z will offer a photo quality up-conversion service for people who want to see their old photos in high resolution. As a social media service that was popular in the early 2000s, most of the photos stored have a resolution of 3.0 to 5.0 megapixels, while smartphones these days offer photos with 12 megapixels. 

BY LEE TAE-HEE [lee.taehee2@joongang.co.kr],KWEN YU-JIN
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