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As the headline suggests, 20 million South Koreans have had their credit card details stolen this month. This shocking discovery means that sensitive data regarding almost half of all South Koreans has now been accessed without their consent.

It is believed that a thus-far unnamed computer contractor, who was working for a company called The Korea Credit Bureau, copied the names, social security numbers and credit card details of around 20 million Korean citizens. The stolen data was then stored on a flash key before being sold to a number of marketing firms.

The culprit was later arrested, as were marketing professionals who allegedly bought the data from him. The true extent of the damage, however, is not yet known.

The Korea Credit Bureau has access to the databases of three major South Korean credit card firms, KB Kookmin Card, Lotte Card and NH Nonghyup Card and a special task force has been implemented in order to investigate the damage caused by this security breach.

The data was apparently left unencrypted by the companies, in a stunning display of haphazard security measures.

Sadly, data theft on this scale is nothing new in South Korea. In 2012, two computer hackers stole details of 8.7 million KT mobile customers and, the year before, 35 million social network accounts (owned by the site ‘Cyworld’) were also exposed.

The bosses of the affected firms issued a public apology, each bowing his head in a gesture of shame. The companies are expected to cover any financial loses experienced as a result of the breach.

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