By Lee Youkyung
SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- SK Communications Co., the operator of South Korea's third most-visited Internet portal, said Thursday that its popular Web sites were hacked, compromising the private information of 35 million users.
The incident could be the worst online security breach in South Korea since a cyber attack on the Web site of Internet Auction Co., a local unit of eBay Inc., affected 18 million users in 2008.
SK Communications, an affiliate of South Korea's industrial giant SK Group, discovered on Tuesday that its Nate search engine and Cyworld social networking web site were hacked by malicious code, Koo Ki-hyang, a spokeswoman at the company, said by phone.
The malicious code apparently stemmed from an Internet Protocol address located in China, Koo said, but the company could not identify when the information was hacked and who was responsible for the online attack. It asked police to investigate the incident.
Personal information including names, passwords, mobile phone numbers, email addresses and resident registration numbers were leaked by the latest security breach, according to the company.
Nate.com is the third-most visited Web search engine in South Korea after Naver and Daum with 33 million users as of early July. Cyworld is a popular online social networking site with 25 million users, about half of the South Korean population.
Police said they will launch a formal investigation into the hacking of the two popular Internet sites.
"Police will first determine whether the hacking was conducted internally or by an outsider," said an official at the Cyber Terror Response Center, a police division dealing with crimes in cyberspace.
"We will also look into whether the customer information leak was triggered by malicious Internet Protocol codes from China," the official said.
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