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South Korea's Largest Travel Agency Breached, Hacker Demands Bitcoin Payment - Coinjournal

Last month, Hanatour, South Korea’s largest travel agency suffered a major security breach, as hackers stole the personal information of over one million users. According to local news publications , hackers have demanded that Hanatour pay a one-time ransom payment in Bitcoin but the amount remains undisclosed. According to South Korean travel associations and independent research firms, Hanatour has consistently been considered South Korea’s largest and most reputable travel agency when measured on revenue, client base and reviews. Since 2007, the company has aggressively moved into new international markets, establishing offices in popular tourist destinations including Japan and China. According to recent reports, more than one million users have been affected. The company has notified its clients and the public that employee’s computers were targeted by hackers using sophisticated phishing attacks and malware, which allowed an unknown group of hackers to access the company’s servers where names, mobile phone numbers, social security numbers, home addresses, email addresses, and the telephone numbers of its clients were held. Hanatour further disclosed that the group responsible have demanded large sums of payments in Bitcoin in return for not leaking the data. In the upcoming weeks, Hanatour will collaborate with government agencies and cybersecurity companies to investigate the attack. Considering the involvement of the South Korean law enforcement, it is highly unlikely that Hanatour will pay the Bitcoin ransom to secure the leaked information of users. But, given that the hackers have requested the company to settle the ransom payment in Bitcoin, there is also a possibility that the hackers could attempt to distribute user information on dark web marketplaces, as many hacking groups have done previously. Recently, Bithumb suffered an attack using similar methods, where employee’s computers were targeted by direct phishing attacks and the distribution of malware. Almost immediately after the hack was discovered and reported to local law enforcement, South Korean government agencies including the Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office for Advanced Criminal Investigation and the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s Department of Cybercrime suggested that the attack may have been launched by a North Korean hacking group, as they have had launched similar attacks in the past, demanding Bitcoin ransoms. As security research firm FireEye stated: “In 2016 we began observing actors we believe to be North Korean utilizing their intrusion capabilities to conduct cyber crime, targeting banks and the global financial system.

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Tech companies join call for govt to back away from encryption crackdown

“We must keep the dialogue open on how we protect our personal, business, and government data against hacking threats which are growing more sophisticated, scalable, and cheap,” said Wickr CEO Joel Wallenstrom. Wickr is an encrypted communications service whose users have included Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “It is no time to limit Australia’s options in securing its economy, critical infrastructure, and business communications,” Wallenstrom said. “It is unrealistic to expect effective law enforcement when our digital systems become porous and vulnerable due to weakened encryption.” The government has committed to introducing legislation that will help law enforcement and national security agencies access encrypted communications . Although the government has claimed the proposed legislation is in “an advanced stage of drafting” , details of how it will work are yet to be released. Read more People trying to opt-out of My Health Record find they already have one The government has said the legislation will require companies to take “reasonable steps” to assist law enforcement agencies that require access to encrypted communications. What will constitute “reasonable steps”, particularly in the case of end-to-end encrypted services, is yet to be revealed . The open letter — sent to Attorney-General Christian Porter, minister for law enforcement and cyber security Angus Taylor, Senate president Senator Scott Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus — argues that “all known methods of bypassing, altering, or watering down security tools or technologies to provide law enforcement access [to encrypted communications] have been shown to carry severe risk”. “We strongly urge the government to commit to not only supporting, but investing in the development and use of encryption and other security tools and technologies that protect users and systems,” the letter states. “We also urge you to advance other structures that will help secure Australia’s digital future, such as the establishment of a vulnerabilities disclosure process and protection for security research.” The letter calls for a “dialogue on education and resources for law and policy makers, as well as law enforcement officials, to help determine what courses of action are available to gain access to evidence in a timely manner”.

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