Korean Social Network Suffers Massive Breach

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Three quarters of the South Korean population may have had their personal details hacked

Thirty-five million South Koreans could have had their personal data exposed by hackers targeting one of the country’s social networks.

The Korean Communications Commission claims to have traced the hack on the Cyworld social networking website and the Nate web portal to IP addresses in China. Both sites are run by SK Telecom.

Mobile phone numbers, email addresses, names and other encrypted information are believed to have been stolen in what could be the country’s biggest ever cyber attack. The population of South Korea is around 49 million.

Another world

Cyworld allows users to create avatars and make friends in a SIMS-like environment, inhabiting ‘apartments’ which can be decorated.

It generates income by selling ‘acorns’ to be used in Cyworld to purchase things such as virtual furniture and wall paintings.

The Nate portal provides access to web services such email.

South Korean government ministries, banks and corporations have suffered a number of attacks in recent months. State-funded bank Nonghyup suffered a network failure in April blamed on North Korea and 1.8m customers of Hyundai Capital has their personal information compromised.

The South Korean government has drawn up a new cyber-security plan in response.

China has also recently been implicated over spear-phishing attacks on the Gmail accounts of US and South Korean officials and Chinese human rights activists.

Mark Darvill, a direcor at security firm AEP said: “By any standard this is a massive attack and one of many in recent months where the finger has been pointed at hackers based in China.

“It’s too early to say whether this attack is politically motivated or merely an attempt to steal personal information for financial gain.

“However it’s now becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between attacks on military, communications, financial, civilian or critical infrastructure targets.”

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