The data breach against North Korean Defectors came after hackers targeted computer at Resettling agency.
Private data of approx. 1,000 North Korean Defectors present in the South have been exposed in a data breach which makes them vulnerable to all sorts of threats from the North, claims the officials from the Unification Ministry.
According to the officials, this is the very first time that the leaked details included names and addresses of North Korean defectors. It is also the first time that such a large-scale data breach has taken place, while a computer at the Gyeongbuk Hana Center, operated by the Hana Foundation, is responsible for the breach.
Reportedly, the computer was infected by hackers with a malicious code that let them access personal details of the defectors including their names, date of birth, and addresses. An unsuspecting employee at the center mistakenly opened a mail that contained the malicious code, which then infected the computer and leaked the data of around 997 defectors.
Hana Foundation is a non-profit entity established by the Unification Ministry to offer “protection and settlement support for North Korean defectors. The center helps the defectors settle in South Korea and get adjusted into the country’s capitalist regime. There are in total 25 centers across the country and about 30,000 defectors are supported by the center currently.
According to an official statement from the Unification Ministry, the hack was identified while a related authority was checking the computers, and after the attack was identified an on-site investigation was instigated immediately. It must be noted that the compromised computer contained classified personal information of the North Korean defectors who are based in Gyeongbuk’s eastern region. The center has vowed to add new, more robust security protocols from January 2019 onwards.
The Unification Ministry also released an apology and stated that: “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 hack attack seems to be linked with the recent threats made by the North Korean state media to silence those defectors who have been engaged actively in anti-Pyongyang activities. On the other hand, a North Korean defector known by his surname Choi claims that someone working for the Hana Foundation has deliberately leaked the information.
“Once the personal information is leaked to North Korea, those people’s families back home will be registered and fall under constant surveillance. They (affected defectors) are distraught,” said a concerned Mr. Choi.