80% of South Koreans need new IDs following huge data theft

South Korea could be forced to completely overhaul its national identity card scheme at a cost of billions of pounds after an enormous data theft dating back a decade saw almost every citizen’s ID number and personal details stolen.

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The country’s government is thinking about issuing a new number to anyone over 17 after it admitted that approximately 80 per cent of the population of 50 million have had ID numbers stolen from banks and various other targets, according to experts.

It could take an entire decade to rebuild the system and tighten up security, according to the “Father of the Korean Internet” Kilnam Chon, and the issue came to the fore after 20 million citizens, including president Park Geun-hye, had credit card details stolen from three companies.

"The problems have grown to a point where finding a way to completely solve them looks unlikely," Chon told the Associated Press.

The data theft has been so easy for hackers to carry out due to a plethora of reasons including the fact that identity numbers are still issued in the same way as they were back in the 1960s when they were first given out to citizens. In addition if details are leaked then citizens can’t change them, and the numbers can act as “master keys” for hackers due to the amount of sectors the numbers are used across. Another issue is the Microsoft ActiveX digital signature that has to be used at banks or online shops often has a very simple password attached.

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It’s estimated that overhauling the government computers and issuing new ID cards for the updated system will set the country back some 700 billion won [£406 billion] and costs to financial firms to redesign services could spiral to several trillion won.

Image Credit: Flickr (Republic of Korea)