Police may arrest system engineer involved in Benesse data leak

Police may arrest a system engineer who has admitted to involvement in a massive customer data leak at Benesse Holdings Inc., as investigative sources said Monday the police plan to launch a formal investigation into the engineer as early as this month.

The temporary employee worked at a contractor for Synform Co., a Benesse affiliate which provided database management services for the company, the biggest provider of correspondence education for children in Japan.

While questioned by the police, the employee admitted to removing the data because of money, the sources said.

The employee is suspected of violating the unfair competition prevention law, which bans unauthorized use or disclosure of trade secrets.

The police are conducting a probe involving matching the employee's work schedule and dates when the data were accessed, suspecting the employee took the data.

Benesse said it has so far confirmed that the leaked data covered 7.6 million customers but the actual number may be as high as 20.7 million.

The leak occurred at a Synform office in Tokyo late last year when the temporary worker's ID was used to access the data, the sources said.

The data are believed to have been copied to USB memory and sold to software developer Justsystems Corp. via multiple name-list traders, they said.

The leak came to light after Justsystems used the Benesse customer data purchased in May to send out direct mail the following month.