- The private data including names, dates of birth, and addresses of 997 North Korean defectors were compromised.
- The government is going to enforce network separation plan, starting next year, in order to prevent such cyber attacks.
The South Korean government revealed on Friday that attackers hacked a defector support center and stole the personal information of 997 North Korean defectors. The personal information stolen included names, dates of birth, and addresses. An employee of a defector support center received a malicious document via phishing email which compromised personal information of the defectors.
Hana Centers are responsible for supporting and facilitating North Korean defectors' settlement in South Korea. There are 25 such support centers across the country and approximately 30,000 North Korean defectors living in the country.
Fortunately, Only one support center out of the 25 defector support centers was hacked. The hack took place after an employee of a defector support center opened a malicious document he received via phishing email on December 19, 2018.
"Recognizing a possibility of one personal computer at the Hana Center in North Gyeongsang Province having been hacked, we carried out an on-site probe on Dec. 19 in cooperation with the provincial government and the center and confirmed the computer was infected with malicious code," the Ministry of Unification said, as per the report by The Korea Times.
"We apologize to defectors from the North. We will make utmost efforts to protect their personal information and prevent any recurrence of such an incident", the ministry said in a statement to The Telegraph.
Sokeel Park, South Korea Country Director and an international NGO that supports North Korean defectors say that this attack will make other defectors feel insecure living in South Korea. This may also make them change their names, phone numbers, and home addresses.
Incident Response by the South Korean government
- The Ministry of Unification said that it had already notified the affected defectors and confirmed that there have been no reports of damage.
- The officials of the ministry are investigating the incident to determine the cybercriminals behind the attack.
- Further, the ministry said that it will work with the police department to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
Moreover, the government is pushing to separate computers for data storage from those for Internet use at Hana centers in order to prevent such cyber attacks. The network separation plan will be enforced starting next year, the ministry said.