Hackers stole personal data on 1,000 North Korean defectors

South Korea

South Korea

The personal information of almost 1,000 North Koreans who defected to South Korea has been leaked after unknown hackers got access to a resettlement agency's database, the South Korean Unification Ministry said on Friday. Since the incident, Seoul has denied the allegations, instead explaining that the warship was looking for a North Korean fishing boat that had drifted near the inter-Korean sea border, AFP reports.

This is the first time that personal details including names and addresses of North Korean defectors have been stolen on such a large scale, the Unification Ministry said.

Defectors, most of whom risked their lives to flee poverty and political oppression, are a source of shame for North Korea.

South Korea houses over 30,000 North Korean defectors.

The classified data was leaked through a personal computer.

September previous year saw the news that an official from the MOU was under indictment on suspicion of selling the personal information of 48 defectors.

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"As we have stated repeatedly, the Gwanggaeto destroyer was engaging in a normal rescue operation and it remains as a fact that the ship did not use" the fire-control radar, it said. There is a chance that the hack may impact the families of defectors, since the identity of every defector is not known in North Korea.

In a statement, the Unification Ministry said the hack had been detected during a check of the computers by a "related authority", which then ordered an on-site investigation.

"Once the personal information is leaked to North Korea, those people's families back home will be registered and fall under constant surveillance. The file was confirmed to have been leaked". South Korean police are investigating the incident, but have not said who they believe is behind the attack.

One of the most high profile hacks linked to North Korea in recent years targeted Sony's entertainment business in 2014 - wiping out massive amounts of data and leading to the online distribution of emails, and sensitive personal data.

The news represents the first large-scale leak of defectors' personal information, the unification ministry said on Friday, and those involved have reportedly been informed that their personal information has been made public.

CNN's James Griffiths contributed reporting.

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