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South Korean Intelligence Officer Found Dead Amid Hacking Scandal

Sputnik News

07:07 19.07.2015(updated 09:16 19.07.2015)

A South Korean National Intelligence Service employee whose body was found earlier left behind a note apologizing for deleting potentially vital data.

A South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) employee whose body was found earlier left behind a note apologizing for deleting potentially vital NIS data, local media reported Sunday.

The agency acknowledged on Tuesday it bought software that could be used to monitor communications on a popular local smartphone messenger application in 2012 from an Italian online security company. The NIS claimed the purchase was done to keep watch over North Korean spies and not conduct surveillance over its own citizens.

The acknowledgment followed last week's publication of the Hacking Team company's internal emails shedding light on the global surveillance network, including South Korea's NIS.

The Yonhap news agency reported Sunday police disclosed a three-page handwritten note inside a car where the NIS employee, identified by his surname Lim, was found dead outside Seoul on Saturday.

'I decided the NIS was more important than whatever impact [my action] would cause, and so I deleted information that created misunderstandings about our counter-terrorism and covert operations on North Korea,' the note read as quoted by the outlet.

The news organization cited investigators as saying there were no signs of forced entry inside Lim's vehicle, making it more likely that his death was a suicide. It further added that an autopsy is expected to be performed later Sunday.

On Wednesday, South Korean Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong said prosecutors were considering launching an investigation of the NIS' purchase of the surveillance software from the Hacking Team.

The NIS has been known to monitor the private communications of South Korean citizens in the past. The secret service monitored Gmail accounts in 2011. Two previous directors of the intelligence organization were imprisoned for overseeing the tracking of mobile phone conversations of the South Korean political and media elite.

Recently, NIS and government officials confirmed to the local Hankyoreh daily the purchase of the program from Italian company Hacking Team, although they insist they are simply studying the technology in order to develop the nations' cyber warfare strategy against North Korea.

The WikiLeaks release of more than 1 million Hacking Team emails this month reveal that South Korea's 5163 Army Division purchased RCS in January 2012 and continued dealing with Hacking Team until this January. The 5163 Division has been reportedly acting as a front for the NIS spy agency. The leaks also demonstrate that the NIS initially looked into RCS in 2010, with a particular interest in spying on cellphones.

'Our customer wants to know that whether the solution [spyware] got the function of monitoring the voice conversation on the mobile phone. He means that he need the functions of monitoring the histories of targets calls and their voice dialogue on mobile phone' an e-mail from Nanatech Ltd. of Sep 10 2010 stated.

The Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team came under international scrutiny with WikiLeaks very first SpyFiles publications in 2011.


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