Korean credit card bosses say sorry 53 million times after massive data breach

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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Sorry Almost half of all South Koreans have had their credit card details stolen and sold on to marketing firms, according to media reports.

An IT contractor working for the personal credit ratings firm Korea Credit Bureau (KCB) has been arrested, after allegedly copying customer names, social security numbers, phone numbers, credit card numbers and expiry dates of up to 20 million South Koreans onto a USB stick, and passing it on to phone marketing companies.

As many South Koreans carry more than one credit card, the number of credit card details stolen (53 million according to some reports) actually exceeds the country’s entire population.

Security measures at three credit firms breached – KB Kookmin Card, Lotte Card and NH Nonghyup Card – are hopefully being closely looked at, as the South Korean financial industry has suffered a serious blow to its credibility in the eyes of the public.

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What’s nice is that the chief executives of the firms publicly apologised at a news conference in Seoul:

Credit card data loss apology

And then they resigned.

Now, wouldn’t it be refreshing if some top bosses at Western companies felt the same sense of responsibility when their firms are negligent in properly protecting their customers’ personal and financial information?

South Korea’s Financial Services Commission says that the credit card firms will cover any customers who suffer a financial loss as a result of the security breach.

South Korea doesn’t have a stellar record for data security. Back in 2011, for instance, hackers broke into the popular websites Nate and Cyworld, and stole information about 35 million social networking users.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the cybersecurity industry, having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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