TOKYO -- Line, the free call and messaging app, has been rocked by a recent spate of data security breaches.
From late May, the app has seen hundreds of user accounts illegally accessed by parties other than the accounts' users. The Cyber Crimes Division of Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department has launched an investigation, but the company that runs the app, also called Line, has been slow to disclose relevant information.
The company announced that it sustained damage from account hijackings on June 12, about two weeks after it first received user reports. On its official blog, Line notified users, asking them to change their passwords. Yet, the blog site is viewable only when the users take the trouble to access it on their own. Many users said they first heard about the account hijackings not from the company, but from the news.
Unidentified culprits are believed to have used ID and password information of users obtained from other companies. Around this same time, similar incidents occurred with the Japanese social networking site mixi, Dwango's video streaming site niconico and CyberAgent's Ameba blogging service. These three companies have all released details of their damage, including the number of attempted illegal accesses.
As of now, Line says there have been 303 cases of hijacked accounts and three cases of fraudulent transactions of electronic money. The company has not updated the information about the number of reported damage cases since June 16.
Moreover, there were some media reports on June 18 that a South Korean intelligence agency had been intercepting Line users' communications. In response, Line CEO Akira Morikawa, on his personal blog the same day, denied the allegations. "We use the highest encryption technology, so interception is impossible," he wrote.
Line has explained its encryption system on its blog site that is aimed at engineers, but has yet to give a satisfactory explanation to ordinary users.
The app is set to have 500 million users worldwide soon. Line is increasingly becoming a communication infrastructure system for a large number of people. If it is to offer the best online communication service in the world, the company needs to provide more information about its services to ease users' concerns.