[Weekend Briefing] South Korea’s core technology leaked to foreign countries

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Mar. 24, 2023 7:53PM GMT+9

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Hello! This is Kuksung Nam in South Korea. South Korea’s national intelligence agency has revealed that they have found 33 cases of national core technology that have been stolen aboard in the past five years. This number is more than one third of total industrial technology theft. In addition, North Korean hackers were placed in the spotlight this week. Intelligence agencies in South Korea and Germany issued a joint alert on a North Korean hacking group known as Kimsuky. One of the country’s biggest security companies also released a report on the hacking group’s tactics last year. At the bottom of this briefing, we have included two news articles and an opinion article. Have a great weekend!

1. One third of industrial technology theft linked to South Korea’s core secrets

South Korea’s intelligence agency has identified 93 cases of industrial technology leakage to foreign countries in the past five years. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said on Friday that one third of the stolen information was classified as national core technology. National core technologies could critically affect the nation’s security and economy once they are divulged. These include state-of-the-art technologies in semiconductors and displays, which have been the most targeted industries in the past five years, amounting to 24 and 20 cases respectively. Moreover, the intelligence agency stated that the shipping, automotive, and information and communication industries have also fallen victim to technology theft.

2. South Korea, Germany issued joint alert on Kimsuky exploiting Google

Designed by Sangseon Kim, The Readable

The intelligence agencies in South Korea and Germany issued a joint alert on Monday regarding the latest cyberattack by the North Korean state-sponsored hacking group Kimsuky. This is the second joint alert that the South Korean spy agency issued with a foreign intelligence agency, following the first warning announced in collaboration with the United States last February.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) of Germany collectively published a cybersecurity advisory on March 20 that describes the advanced hacking techniques used by Kimsuky. In the advisory, the NIS directly linked Kimsuky to the North Korean Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB). This is a rare occurrence because the South Korean government seldom publicly places blame on North Korea for cybercrimes. To read the original reporting, click here.

3. North Korean cyberhackers actively hide behind spear-phishing, researchers say

The North Korean hacking group known as Kimsuky has been vigorously using spear-phishing to lure in their targets last year, according to a report issued by one of South Korea’s biggest security companies on Friday. Spear-phishing is a personalized hacking tactic that involves deploying sophisticatedly designed compromised emails to trick victims into running a malicious code or clicking on a link to a phishing site. Ahnlab added that the hackers have been thoroughly investigating the targets, as it is hard to differentiate the manipulated version and the authentic document with the naked eye. Moreover, the security company stated that the attackers are diversifying their tactics as they have found malicious code that works to steal all sorts of information on web browsers.

4. McDonald’s faces 706 million won in fines over data violation

Designed by Sangseon Kim, The Readable

The US burger giant’s South Korea operation has been fined 706 million won (roughly $551,000) for breaking the nation’s data privacy laws for its treatment of South Korean users’ information.

The South Korean privacy regulator, the Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC), held its fifth plenary session on Wednesday and decided to fine McDonald’s alongside five other companies over privacy violations. The US burger giant was given the biggest penalty among the six firms.

The PIPC said that McDonald’s had mishandled customers’ data and let attackers gain access to more than 4.8 million South Korean users’ data, which is almost 10 percent of the country’s population. The PIPC did not immediately respond to The Readable’s request for details about the information that has been affected. To read the full article, click here.

5. South Korea, US to boost joint research in cybersecurity

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

South Korea and the United States will work together to boost collaborative research on cybersecurity, continuing their effort to enhance cooperation in state-of-the-art technologies.

The Ministry of Science and ICT announced on Tuesday that they signed a joint statement of intent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), which formally declared both countries’ cooperation in studying four prominent fields: chemical and biological defense, critical infrastructure, unmanned aircraft systems, and cybersecurity. The joint statement also included a commitment to provide career exchanges in science, technology, engineering, and math. To read the original reporting, click here.

6. [Opinion] Why I went public with the CTI company I founded 19 years ago

Kihong Kim, CEO of SANDS Lab

“Technology-driven intelligence companies, such as SANDS Lab, can have a positive impact on the security market by entering KOSDAQ.” This is the suggestion that I heard from an industry expert after completing the final evaluation for technology special listing last January.

Although SANDS Lab was initially founded as a student venture in 2004, I consider it to still maintain the characteristics of a startup. While the term “startup” typically refers to companies that have been around for three to five years, SANDS Lab has a young and dynamic workforce and a streamlined decision-making process that eliminates unnecessary procedures. Furthermore, the company is continuously adapting to reflect industry trends and expand into new markets, further aligning with the traits commonly associated with startups. To read the full article, click here.


The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.