Regulators, Banks Look for IT Hires After Breakdowns

Two high-profile security breaches at South Korean financial companies have put the spotlight on whether Korean companies – and the regulators who look them over – are paying enough attention to technology.
Hyundai Capital, one of South Korea’s largest second-tier consumer lenders, disclosed on April 7 that an unidentified hacker has stolen personal information of around 420,000 customers, raising public alarm.
Then, on April 12, National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, or Nonghyup, suffered a system breakdown that left the company’s 30 million customers unable to make basic transactions like withdrawals, use credit cards or borrow money. Nonghyup’s problems, which the firm says was caused by an unauthorized command to delete data on its servers, has taken almost a week to resolve. The lender says it expects to get almost all of its services and systems back to normal today.
Hyundai Capital and Nonghyup have issued apologies to their customers and have vowed to strengthen their internal security to avoid similar breaches in the future. But these incidents have also triggered criticism that the local authorities and financial companies have been too lax in ensuring data and network security.
Heads of the Financial Services Commission and the Financial Supervisory Service faced stern criticisms from lawmakers when they appeared in parliament Friday.
They noted that the FSS, which conducts regular inspections on local financial firms, only had 11 people on staff who are capable of examining the companies’ IT networks.
Finance industry officials also say that the local companies don’t place much emphasis on their IT operations, with much of the work outsourced to third-party contractors. Some point out that the IT staffs are given little attention by top managers because they cost, rather than generate, money.
But the lax attitude may be changing in the wake of these major breaches. The FSS has vowed to increase staffing for IT systems. FSC Governor Kim Seok-dong and FSS Governor Kwon Hyouk-se also met with heads of five major Korean lenders on Monday to emphasize the need for the companies to ensure that their networks are safe. “Heads of the major financial holding companies have already taken interested are personally looking into their respective firms’ internal situation and necessary responses, and the financial regulators will provide necessary support in this process,” the FSC said in a statement Monday.

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