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UK slaps £500,000 fine on Cathay Pacific for 9.4m customer data leak

Christian Fernsby |
The Information Commissioner's Office has fined Cathay Pacific Airways £500,000 for leaky security that exposed the personal data of 9.4 million passengers.

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The breach, which occurred between October 2014 and May 2018, exposed passengers' names, passport and identity details, dates of birth, postal and email addresses, phone numbers, and travel history, as well as 430 credit card numbers, 27 of which were active.

The unauthorised access was first suspected in March 2018, when Cathay's database suffered a brute force attack, and confirmed in May. A Cathay Pacific spokesman said at the time that the combination of data accessed varied for each affected passenger.

The ICO investigation found that Cathay's systems were affected by malware that harvested the data. Several errors with Cathay's security were found along the way, including backup files that were not password protected, unpatched web-facing servers, an out of support OS, and inadequate antivirus protection.

"This breach was particularly concerning given the number of basic security inadequacies across Cathay Pacific’s system, which gave easy access to the hackers. The multiple serious deficiencies we found fell well below the standard expected," said Steve Eckersley, the ICO's director of investigations.

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