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Hyundai hacker suspect arrested

Police have arrested a 40-year-old man who reportedly planned the theft of customer information from Hyundai Capital earlier this month, putting more than 420,000 people’s privacy in danger.

However, they have yet to locate his accomplices residing in the Philippines and China.

According to officers at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the suspect surnamed Heo handed in 20 million won ($18,500) to a man who he met in the Philippines after learning that he could earn a fortune by hiring a computer hacker, stealing customers’ information and selling it to brokers. Heo reportedly borrowed the money from a man identified by the family name Cho, who introduced him to a professional hacker named Shin. 
Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency staffer Lee Byeong-ha briefs reporters about the investigation results of the Hyundai Capital data hacking at the agency headquarters in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)
Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency staffer Lee Byeong-ha briefs reporters about the investigation results of the Hyundai Capital data hacking at the agency headquarters in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)

Shin, who has a previous criminal record from hacking into the computer servers of the online portal site Daum and several other telecommunication companies, fled to the Philippines in 2007.

Shin has successful stolen ultra-sensitive information such as the credit ratings of 420,000 customers and 13,000 of their passwords.

Heo blackmailed Hyundai to send him a total of 100 million won to one of the four bank accounts he had specified in an extortionist email. Of that total, 47 million won was transferred by Shin to three other accounts, of which Heo, Cho and an unidentified girlfriend of Cho withdrew the total sum at two ATMs in Seoul.

The police have apprehended Heo and a man identified by the family name Yoo, who reportedly drove a vehicle for Heo while he wandered around Seoul with the money. Cho fled to China with his girlfriend right after the withdrawal.

The police plan to seek an arrest warrant for Heo and Yoo and are tracking the whereabouts of the rest of the outfit but said the procedure is not simple: They have requested Interpol’s cooperation but have yet to receive any information. The investigators are also studying whether an insider was involved in the crime since breaking into a system is difficult without the help of an accomplice inside.

Officers at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said Monday they are studying possible relations between the Hyundai Capital incident and the recent breakdown of the Nonghyup computing system.

“They have a very similar pattern in performance and were committed in a very similar period of time. We suspect hackers outside the country may have cracked the Nonghyup system and paralyzed it to collect customers’ information and sell it to others or just like they tried to with Hyundai,” an officer said.

The Communications Commission Monday said it will investigate all financial firms’ online security and the management of customers’ information. According to the law, lax management resulting in leaks could result in up to 100 million won in fine or a two-year-imprisonment term for those in charge.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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