Newspaper article International New York Times

South Korea on Edge after Huge Theft of Card Data ; Officials at 3 Companies Offer to Quit over Breach Affecting Up to 20 Million

Newspaper article International New York Times

South Korea on Edge after Huge Theft of Card Data ; Officials at 3 Companies Offer to Quit over Breach Affecting Up to 20 Million

Article excerpt

Senior executives at three credit card companies offered to resign after a huge theft of client data that may have affected 20 million people.

A string of senior executives at three credit card companies in South Korea have offered to resign after a huge theft of client data that may have affected 20 million people in this country of 50 million.

The case became known this month when prosecutors arrested a 39- year-old technician hired by the Korea Credit Bureau, a ratings firm that the credit card companies had hired to help improve their systems and better protect client data. It was subsequently reported that the man had stolen personal information on 104 million credit cards issued by KB Financial Group, NongHyup Financial Group and Lotte Card.

The man, identified only by his last name, Park, stole the data from May 2012 to December 2013, copying it onto a USB device, prosecutors said. The data included clients' names, phone numbers, social security numbers, email and residential addresses, salaries, monthly card use and other credit-rating information, the Financial Supervisory Service, a regulatory agency, said. In many cases, card numbers were stolen as well.

Prosecutors have also indicted two phone marketing company managers on charges of buying the stolen data from the technician. Prosecutors said they had found no evidence that the data had circulated further, but fears spread that the information might have fallen into the hands of financial scammers.

"Personal information was leaked but hasn't been distributed," Shin Je-yoon, the chairman of the Financial Services Commission, the government's top financial regulator, told reporters on Monday. "I see people are really worried that the information leak could lead to misuse of their credit cards, but such chances are slim."

Angry clients were rushing to bank branches or flooding the card companies' call centers and websites with inquiries on whether their data had been stolen, and some clients were demanding new cards.

On Monday, lawyers and civic groups were announcing plans to pursue lawsuits against the three firms.

The trouble was severe enough to prompt the government to take steps to try to ease the jitters. …

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