(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 22) | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Clear hurdle to vaccination

The country’s online reservation system for COVID-19 vaccine shots crashed again Wednesday, causing repeated connection failures and extreme confusion. The problem occurred again after the system failed to run smoothly the previous day when people aged 50 and 52 were left waiting as they tried to gain access to the reservation site.

Reservations for those aged 53 and 54 began at 8 p.m. Monday but they were denied access as the server went down soon after it opened. Due to a system error, the reservation process was suspended for two hours. Operation of the system resumed after emergency measures were taken, but it still did not run smoothly with intermittent connection failures. Furious people trying to register vented their anger via social media, criticizing the authorities for the glitches.

The reservation platform opened for those aged between 55 and 59 July 12, but the system crashed from the start. This happened as the government had failed to secure enough vaccines and did not announce the shortage to the public immediately. On July 14, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum pledged to take steps to guarantee the smooth administering of vaccines. Yet again, a similar system error occurred, though reservations resumed several hours later.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said delays in connections took place because a large number of people rushed to access the reservation site simultaneously as soon as it opened. The authorities should be held accountable for having failed to cope with the repeated system failures. They should have made thorough preparations for the sudden rush of people seeking to reserve vaccine shots.

What is worrisome is the increasing number of “backdoor” reservations made by utilizing unofficial channels. For instance, some people allegedly succeeded in making reservations by changing the time set in their notebook computers to access the blocked system. This raises concerns over the security of the reservation system. Thorough checks are needed on the systems operation of major state institutions.

Such concern has grown recently following the hacking of computer systems at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), allegedly by North Korea. Any cyberattack on a computer system is feared to cause great confusion and a massive theft of confidential information.

The KDCA needs to reinforce cybersecurity with the help of experts. Given the repeated glitches in the vaccine reservation site for 7.43 million people in their 50s, no one can be sure if the estimated 19 million people aged 40 and below will be able to access the site without any problems.

Speedy vaccination is urgent to ride out the raging fourth wave of the pandemic at the earliest date possible. Toward that end, the authorities should ensure the smooth operation of the vaccine reservation system in cooperation with the people. Policymakers should make efforts not to lose the public’s trust in the country’s inoculation program. Better communication with the people is also crucial in defeating COVID-19.
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