By Kim Tong-hyung
More than 50 percent of Korean computer users have had their personal details leaked online, a survey suggested Tuesday, as if the country needed further evidence that it does have a cyber security defense problem.
The fear over data breaches has been reaching fever pitch here with network-related problems that hit financial companies Nonghyup and Hyundai Capital eroding the public’s confidence in the safety of their information and money.
About 51 percent of 450 working adults quizzed by online job information service, Career, said that they experienced their personal information, such as e-mail addresses, passwords and personal identification codes, compromised either by inept websites or cyber criminals.
Of the people who had their data leaked, nearly 66 percent of them had their phone numbers and e-mail addresses exposed, Career said. And about 20 percent of them had their resident registration numbers ― 13-digit code that indicates one’s birthdate, sex and registration site, which is the Korean equivalent of a social security number ― compromised.
The failure in data protection has led to an increasing volume of ``spam’’ e-mails and mobile-phone text messages, according to 78 percent of the respondents. Others have experienced stolen e-mail accounts and ``phishing attacks,’’ which involves using fake websites or telephone calls to lure people into revealing information such as bank accounts or log-in names.
Korea has been hit by a slew of privacy infringement cases in recent years.
Online transactions were shaky for more than a week at NH Bank, the financial services unit of Nonghyup, or the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, as the company showed ineptitude in repairing its crashed computer network, which it now claims was attacked deliberately.
And a massive security breach at Hyundai Capital, the consumer finance unit of automaker Hyundai-Kia Automotives, left more than 420,000 customers distressed after learning that their data had been compromised by cyber criminals.
The companies could face a series of class-action lawsuits, driven by consumer rights group such as the Korea Insurance Consumer Federation (KICF) and Korea Civil Association for Consumer’s Rights (CAC), who are apparently gunning for extensive compensation.
Police revealed a case last year that involved the stealing of personal data of more than 20 million people subscribing to the online services of Shinsegae Department Store.
Auction (www.auction.co.kr), eBay's Korean unit and the country's largest online retailer, also failed to protect the data of its 10.8 million customers from Chinese hackers in 2008.
The exposure of Korean resident registration numbers has become so frequent that a recent police report said that Chinese hackers are trading the codes for just 1 won each, as it doesn't take much sophistication to locate a resident registration number on Google.