South Korean telco deliberately infected thousands of users with malware

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One of the largest telecommunications providers in South Korea allegedly targeted hundreds of thousands of its own customers with malware in a bid to stop them using torrenting sites.

Local media outlets claim Korea Telecom (KT) used illegal methods to try and curb the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading software.

Apparently, KT set up an entire division dedicated to developing, maintaining, and distributing the malware. The entire operation started in May 2020 and, at one point, affected roughly 600,000 people.

Police involved

The victims were the users of the Grid Program, which suddenly started creating strange folders, or outright hiding downloaded files - and in some cases, the infected PCs just stopped working altogether. 

A Grid Program representative told the media that only the people using KT’s internet lines were affected, TechNadu said.

Since the malware seemingly came from KT’s data center, the Bundang IDC center, the police were soon involved. Apparently, the Gyeonggi Southern District Office suspects KT violated the Communications Secrets Protection Act (CSPA) and the Information and Communications Network Act (ICNA). In the meantime, the KT CEO stepped down as well. 

In total 13 individuals were identified and referred for prosecution, it was said. A new investigation started last month, as well.

P2P sites can often burden networks, in a similar way legitimate streaming services do, too. At one point, South Korean telecommunications providers were even fighting a legal battle with Netflix over who should pay for the network operation and construction costs.

That being said, it would not be in the domain of sci-fi if KT opted for a different method of trying to prevent widespread P2P use. Obviously, such a thing would warrant at least a lawsuit, and given that people’s sensitive files could be involved too, it could end up hurting KT a lot.

Via The Register

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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.