Police in South Korea have arrested five men working as sub-contractors for the country’s two biggest mobile companies. The men were nabbed on suspicion of snarfing personal information and location data from potentially hundreds of thousands of mobile users and selling it on to private detectives.
The Korea Herald reported that the men had been subcontracted to manage online friend tracking services for SK Telecom and KT, which between them have close to 90 per cent of the mobile market in the country.
However, the men allegedly developed software designed to harvest personal user information and location data without the knowledge of the user and then sold it on for up to 300,000 won (£168) per set of information.
As well as the two alleged data thieves, police reportedly arrested a private detective agency owner and a man who acted as broker – buying data from the hackers and selling it on to the agencies for up to 500,000 won (£280).
The detective agencies then sold the data on again to individual clients, the report alleged.
The illegal software was used in close to 200,000 cases, according to the police.
“The program had been used for commercial reasons for three months since August last year. But it is assumed that not all the tracking cases were tracked in violation of the law,” a police official is quoted as saying.
"We plan to further expand related investigations because we have found that as many as 1,000 clients requested information tracking and the destinations of the leaked information have not been disclosed.”
The incident calls to mind a well-publicised case from 2009 when T-Mobile was forced to admit that staff had been making significant sums on the side by selling on customer data to competitors.
In the case of KT and SK Telecom, both of whom reportedly knew nothing of the illegal activity going on until the arrests, it highlights the need for companies to practice good data security and carry out strict vetting checks on any subcontractors. ®