In the best-selling crime novel “Millennium Series” by Swedish journalist-writer Stieg Larsson, the heroine Lisbeth Salander freely breaks into the computers of individuals and organizations for her private investigative work and even makes a fortune by penetrating into the domain of a corrupt media magnate. She is a member of the international hacker community called the “Hacker Republic.”
Technologies continue to develop in both hardware and software, but the power of hackers grows in tandem and our wired society becomes ever more vulnerable. Now we are appalled once again to learn about the extortion by one or more hackers of money from the nation’s leading financial service provider, Hyundai Capital, a unit of the Hyundai Motor Group.
The company, specializing in home and auto financing, admitted that financial information of 420,000 of its 1.8 million customers had been stolen, including individual credit ratings and passwords for loan accounts. After the company made a transfer as demanded by the extortionist, police traced the money but have failed to make an arrest.
The perpetrators are thought to have accessed the auxiliary server of Hyundai Capital two months ago and stolen information in small portions to avoid being detected. The company was totally unaware of the theft until several employees received emails from the hacker Thursday demanding money in exchange for not revealing the stolen information in the cyberspace.
Hyundai Capital asserts that its clients have suffered no financial damage, but it was technically possible for the hacker to draw money from loan accounts using the stolen information. Hackers have been expanding the scope of their activities from simple identity and data theft to bank fraud and extortion. We are hardly assured of reinforcements on the defending side.
Unreserved investments are required to bolster the anti-hacking capabilities at financial establishments, the main targets of computer crimes. The Financial Supervisory Service needs to make closer checkups of individual firms’ defending systems.