Recently, a single security contractor at the Korean Credit Bureau, a risk management and fraud detection service, was able to download and steal consumer records of over 20 million people, from three of South Korea’s major credit card companies. That’s nearly half the population of South Korea!
This security breach is just the latest in a series of attacks that have hit South Korean financial institutions. Which begs the question, why is South Korea the target of so many security breaches?
South Korea’s defense ministry reports that North Korea has trained hundreds in computer hacking, in effort to launch a cyber-war, not just on South Korea, but on the United States and Japan, as well. However, South Korea is particularly vulnerable to cyber crimes because of their relatively poor levels of Internet security.
How It Happened
The contractor held responsible for the theft, was supposedly improving security systems at Kookmin Card, NongHyup Card, and Lotte Card. Misleading the companies for almost a year, he downloaded consumer information and sold it to loan companies, who apparently used it for marketing calls. Specifically, the contractor obtained home addresses, telephone numbers, and credit card numbers with their expiration dates. This is just one example of the recent cyber-threats placed on South Korea.
Last March, three South Korean banks were the victims of a North Korea hacking attack. And just last month, personal consumer information was stolen from Citibank and Standard Chartered. These attacks abroad, plus the recent attacks here in the U.S. on Target and Neiman Marcus, just to name a few, showcase how vulnerable our personal information is and how pertinent it is for companies to take steps to protect our information.
The fallout of this latest breach resulted in over 500,000 South Koreans rushing to cancel their credit cards, and nearly three-dozen credit card executives have resigned. On a positive note, South Korea’s prime minister has created a task force to implement measures to prevent further security breaches.
Guard Your Credit Cards
Cyber attacks often result in innocent victims, but you can always take measures to protect yourself from being the victim of credit card theft:
- Never lend your credit cards to anyone.
- Never leave your cards or receipts lying around, and shred receipts/statements when you no longer need them.
- Get a card that has added security features, like a photo.
- Check receipts against your monthly statements. Report any errors to the credit card company.
- Record card numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers and keep this in a safe place separate from your cards.