The Korean Herald and other news outlets are reporting that 35 million users of Nate - South Korea's third largest search engine - and Cyworld - the country's largest social networking site - have had some of their personal information stolen by hackers allegedly traced to China.
Some 25 million South Koreans belong to Cyworld - nearly half the country's population.
The hacking attack was announced yesterday by SK Communications Co., which operates Nate and Cyworld, and is "a unit of the SK Group whose affiliates include top mobile operator SK Telecom," the Herald report.
The Korean Herald story quotes a statement from SK Communications that reads in part:
"The company has confirmed that a leak of customers' information has taken place due to hacking on July 26, The specific scale of the hacking is still being investigated, but it is estimated that some of the personal information of 35 million Nate and Cyworld members have been leaked."
It also quotes SK Communications CEO Joo Hyung-chul as stating:
"Concerning this incident, we offer our apology to our customers and have taken all the necessary measures to minimize the impact and identify the cause and retrieve customer information in cooperation with the authorities."
The Herald reports that "users' names, phone numbers, email, resident registration numbers and passwords" were taken, although the passwords and resident registration numbers were encrypted. The main worry at the moment seems to be the likelihood of a major increase in spam/phishing attacks across the country.
Shares of SK Communications dropped nearly 6% on the news.
This is the second major hacking attack in South Korea this year. The National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, or Nonghyup, suffered a crippling attack in April that authorities said originated in North Korea.
An opinion piece in today's Korean Times concerning the hack attack notes that:
"Korea, the most wired country, is also the most hacked nation in the world. Regulators and portal sites have been sloppy and are useless in cyber security. "
You can read in this recent Spectrum news story about how Songdo, South Korea aims to be the most wired city on Earth with help from Cisco. Hopefully, some thought has gone into about how to make it the most IT security city on Earth as well (though I tend to doubt it).
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.