Personal data possibly hacked from consular service email system

Taipei-- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that personal data collected by the Bureau of Consular Affairs from Taiwanese citizens traveling abroad and sent to the ministry's overseas offices through an email system may have been hacked, after irregularities were found recently within the email system.

Winston Chung (???), deputy head of the bureau, said at a news briefing that security checks have found irregularities within its email system and that the system might have been hacked by unknown sources.

Up to 15,000 personal records collected by the bureau could have been accessed by the unknown sources over the past three months, Chung said.

The bureau has taken measures to strengthen information security and an initial check found that the unknown sources have hacked into the email system between the bureau and Taiwan's overseas offices, Chung said.

The email system is used by the bureau to send overseas offices personnel data on citizens traveling abroad, which is designed to give them quicker access to consular services abroad in the event of emergencies.

To register for the service, Taiwanese citizens are required to fill in information such as their name, birth date, ID number, passport number, email address and emergency contacts.

Chung said the motive behind the hacking is still unclear, but he urged citizens who have applied for the service to change the passwords to their email accounts as soon as possible.

He said the bureau has formed a task force to deal with the incident, and called on citizens who might have been affected by the hacking to contact the bureau, adding that so far, no one has done so.

The bureau is mulling whether to adjust the personal information required to apply for the service, making only passport numbers, cellphone numbers and email accounts required information, according to source.

Despite the hacked email system, the ministry said that the host computer of the bureau of consular affairs remains intact, adding that there are no safety concerns and no leaks of personal data from the bureau's passport and visa systems.

Commenting on the incident, Tsai Shih-ying (???), a ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker, said that the Foreign Ministry should apologize and hold those responsible accountable.

Sharing a similar view, Liao Kuo-tung (???), party whip of the opposition Kuomintang legislative caucus, said the incident should not have happened and that the ministry should review its procedures to identify any possible problems with the email system.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel