Many Internet users in South Korea haven’t increased the protection of their private information even though many have borne the brunt of hacking and voice-phishing scams over the past few years, a new report suggests.

The Korea Communications Commission and Korea Internet Security Agency on March 26 released the 2011 report on information protection, which notes that about a quarter of Koreans pay relatively little attention to online security.

For its research, the agency surveyed 1,500 Korean citizens online over a three-month period last year. Among respondents, 25.6% said that they did not use antivirus programs, and 25.8% were not using security patches for their computers’ operating systems.

Moreover, most respondents lacked knowledge or understanding of private information protection, with only 23.5% setting up passwords for logging on to their operating system.

Voice-phishing scams were the cause of the most credit card disputes in the South Korean card market last year, according to a recent report by Credit Finance Association of Korea (see story)

Interestingly, the report also puts the blame of voice phishing and hacking scams on a 2007 government initiative requiring the use of real names in all transactions made online.

The main source of private information leaks, including card details, have been resident registration numbers, which most online retail websites require to log on to their sites, the report suggests. “The easiest way for websites to confirm whether subscribers were using their real names was to request their resident registration number and see if it matched,” the report explains.

In doing so, it made easier for criminals to collect individuals’ private data because virtually all of Korea’s resident registration numbers are now available online at the identity hackers’ mercy, the report points out.

Criminals can collect almost anyone’s personal information, including bankcard details, phone numbers, addresses, shopping records and bank account details, by matching information from two or more websites through the resident registration number.

Though the government has tried to combat the problem by introducing the i-PIN as a substitute for the resident registration number, 40% of Korean Internet users know nothing about the i-PIN, the report says

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