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Attacks/Breaches

Report: Korean Execs Stole $1.8B in Trade Secrets

Company leaders allegedly defected to rival company with 900 documents loaded onto USB drives

Two top executives of a major Korean electric power business illegally brought more than $1.8 billion in trade secrets with them when they joined a rival company earlier this year, according to one of the country's largest newspapers.

According to a report in Korea Times, two high-ranking officers at STX Heavy Industries were arrested Friday on charges of stealing key technology data from their former employer, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction.

The two former Doosan executives -- identified only as Ku and Kim -- are the incumbent president of STX's industrial plant department and the executive director of its development department, respectively, prosecutors said.

According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, the two stole information about Doosan's desalination technology -- a key part of the company's business -- and other key technical data when they quit their former employer and were hired by STX in April.

Ku allegedly took about 900 documents -- including blueprints of Doosan's electric power generation and desalination plants -- by copying them onto USB ports "for some time" while he was employed there, prosecutors said. Kim is said to to have obtained confidential documents even after moving to STX by instructing one of his former subordinates to act as a spy.

Besides Ku and Kim, prosecutors are questioning about 20 former executives of Doosan employed by STX in its electric power and desalination businesses.

The value of the technological know-how leaked by the two to STX could be at least 1.7 trillion won -- more than $1.8 billion dollars. "But considering the years of work we've put into developing those technologies, it could be worth a lot more," said a Doosan official.

It is the first time that tech theft has taken place between large domestic companies in Korea, and is expected to trigger turmoil in the industry. STX Corp. shares dropped 20,000 won, or 14.76 percent, in trading on Friday.

Analysts said they expect the violation of the Industrial Espionage Law committed by STX to hurt its electric power and desalination businesses going forward. However, STX denied violating the law. "The incident will not have any effect on our future business," the company said.

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Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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