Korea Must Secure Its Wi-Fi Networks

      August 12, 2010 13:19

      The Korean National Police Agency's Cyber Terror Response Center raided the offices of Google Korea on Tuesday, investigating charges that the Internet giant illegally collected and stored information of Wi-Fi users while gathering data for its Street View service between late last year and May this year. The Street View service offers panoramic images of streets on Google maps that were taken by a special camera mounted on a car.

      The issue surfaced in May of this year when the German government raised suspicions that Google illegally collected personal information through unsecured Wi-Fi networks such as e-mail addresses, text messages and accessed Internet sites as it scanned city streets taking photos. Google admitted the suspicions and apologized, but the governments of the U.S., Japan and various European countries launched their own investigations and Google was widely criticized.

      Google Korea took photos of major city streets in Korea from October of last year but stopped when the charges surfaced. When the police raided Google Korea's offices, the company was already in talks with the Korea Communications Commission over how to handle private information. But since Google does not have a data center here, experts say the hard discs police confiscated probably do not contain the information they are looking for.

      Comprehensive measures are needed to deal with the security weaknesses of Wi-Fi services. With more and more people using smartphones and other cutting-edge mobile devices, Wi-Fi services have emerged as the key communications system. The Wi-Fi networks set up by mobile telecom providers offer some degree of security, but private Wi-Fi networks established by individuals are usually vulnerable. The incident clearly demonstrates that private information can be stolen through unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

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