Regulator to lay out client data protection measures

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's financial regulator said Tuesday it plans to draw up comprehensive measures to better protect confidential customer data held by financial institutions after detailed information of almost half of the country's 50-million population was stolen.

The measures set to be unveiled Wednesday will strengthen monitoring of staff at financial companies and their contractors involved in customer data management and will bar financial firms from sharing client data with their affiliates beyond a limited extent.

Stronger punitive measures will be also imposed on financial institutions and their executives in cases of data leaks, the regulator said.

"We are focusing on overhauling anti-piracy policies for financial institutions and preventing the recurrence of another data breach," said an official at the Financial Services Commission (FSC).

The planned steps follow the latest data leak, the largest ever in the country, stoking fears that stolen data may be used by financial scammers.

Personal data, including bank account numbers, addresses and credit ratings of some 20 million bank clients have been leaked, according to an estimate by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), the country's financial watchdog. Part of the leak occurred at local banks that shared their customer data with their affiliated credit card firms -- KB Kookmin, Nonghyup and Lotte.

In December, personal data of some 130,000 customers of Standard Chartered Bank Korea and Citibank Korea was also stolen.

The financial regulator is also reviewing stern punitive measures against the financial firms and their executives for lax management of customer data, the FSS official said.

Top executives at KB Financial Group Inc. and its mainstay banking unit Kookmin Bank and three other credit card firms tendered their resignations on Monday as the finance industry tried to contain the fallout from the latest data leak.

Some 1.15 million people canceled or applied for new plastic cards as of noon Tuesday over fears of being scammed with the stolen data, according to the FSS.

Also, some 9.17 million people, equivalent to 35 percent of the country's economically active population of 25.87 million, have logged on to the websites of the three card firms to check whether their personal information was stolen, it said.

Other data from the FSS shows sensitive records on some 2.36 million clients has leaked from financial institutions since 2009 in a separate case from the latest incident.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>