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Hong Kong airline hacked, 9.4 million customers affected

Filip TRUȚĂ

October 25, 2018

Hong Kong airline hacked, 9.4 million customers affected

Cathay Pacific Airways has released a notice announcing it has discovered “unauthorized access” to data belonging to 9.4 million passengers, including names, nationalities, phone numbers, email, physical address, and more.

“The Company is aware that the passenger data of approximately 9.4 million people has been accessed,” the airline said in a notice primarily aimed at investors. “The Company has no evidence that any personal information has been misused. The information systems affected were separate from the Company”s flight operations systems. There is no impact on flight safety.”

Technical details are scarce, with the airline only stating that it discovered “suspicious activity on its network” as early as March 2018, when it began an investigation into the breach. While the event was contained rapidly, passenger data was exposed long enough for bad actors to grab it.

“The types of personal data accessed were the names of passengers, their nationalities, dates of birth, telephone numbers, email, physical addresses, passport numbers, identity card numbers, [and] frequent flyer programme,” the notice makes clear.

“In addition, 403 expired credit card numbers and 27 credit card numbers with no CVV were accessed. The information accessed varies between passengers. No travel or loyalty profiles were accessed in full. No passwords were compromised.”

Passwords would have made for an even bigger prize for the attackers, but the information listed above is more than enough to conduct fraud, phishing campaigns, and other financial scams, as history has shown. Furthermore, some 860,000 passport numbers and 245,000 Hong Kong identity card numbers are also known to have been “accessed.”

Cathay is currently contacting affected parties to notify them of the breach. It has also enlisted the help of the Hong Kong Police and other relevant authorities to try and uncover who is behind the attack.

Notably, Cathay waited five months to notify affected customers, a heavily punishable conduit under western laws.

Just two weeks ago, Heathrow Airport incurred a £120,000 fine for a 2017 privacy breach incident. The penalty was calculated per the 1998 Data Protection Act. A much heftier fine would have ensued under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which took effect in May this year.

And in September, UK’s Bristol Airport saw its computers taken offline by a ransomware infection, prompting a fallback to whiteboards and paper posters.

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