An unknown party recently hacked at least 700 smart home devices across South Korea and sold explicit images and videos accessed through the devices on the dark web, South Korea’s National Police confirmed Monday when announcing a criminal investigation into the incident.
“After receiving a call from the Korea Internet & Security Agency and starting an inspection, it seems that there were about 700 shootings [recordings],” Nam Gu-Jun, the chief of South Korea’s National Investigation Headquarters — which is a branch of South Korea’s National Police Agency — told reporters on November 29.
“The police have requested the removal of the video from the website where it was posted,” Nam said, as quoted by South Korea’s Kukmin Ilbo newspaper.
“However, since it is a website with a server in a foreign country and a privately operated website, it is unclear whether the request for deletion will be accepted,” the official acknowledged.
“For this reason, the police are also discussing ways to prevent exposure on the domestic Internet with relevant domestic agencies,” he revealed.
The South Korean tech news website IT Chosun exclusively reported on November 15 that hundreds of smart home devices in apartments across Seoul, South Korea’s national capital, and on the southern Korean island of Jeju were recently hacked. Some of the video footage filmed during the hacking was later sold for “‘0.1 BTC” on the dark web. BTC stands for Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency. A sum of 0.1 BTC equals about 8 million South Korean won, or roughly USD $6,717.
IT Chosun said it first learned of the naked photos incident through an “overseas hacking forum” and subsequently reached out to a hacker who claimed he was responsible for the cybercrime. When IT Chosun asked the hacker for evidence to support his claim, the individual responded by uploading “thumbnails (preview images)” to a website he operates on the dark web.
“[The] thumbnails included a lot of provocative images, such as naked photos of men and women, and even images of [people] having sex, in addition to the landscapes of ordinary homes,” IT Chosun detailed. “The picture quality was not good, but in the case of a thumbnail with a large face, you can even identify who the person is.”
The hacker obtained the thumbnail images from video footage accessed by infiltrating software used to operate smart home devices such as video intercoms. Such technology is commonly used in South Korea, where 63 percent of the population resides in apartment homes. The video intercoms are typically installed on devices that use a two-way camera that may access both the interior and exterior of a home.
When IT Chosun expressed incredulity at the hacker having accessed “all” apartment complexes in South Korea, as he had allegedly claimed, the individual responded by sending the IT news website “a list of secured videos saying, ‘Choose the apartment complex you want.'”
IT Chosun said the list of apartments it received was so extensive that, if confirmed, the hacker might have secretly recorded up to tens of thousands of people to secure the naked photos.
“It is difficult to confirm the exact apartment name and address [of the apartments on the list],” the tech site acknowledged.
“But hundreds of apartment complexes across the country, including Seoul as well as Jeju Island, were on the list,” IT Chosun reported.
“If all the apartment complexes on the list were hacked as the hacker said, then the private lives of tens of thousands of Koreans are being broadcast live somewhere,” the IT news site observed.
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