August 3, 2015

Share Everywhere

United Airlines Becomes Newest Target of China-Backed Hackers

In recent months, major organizations — including the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and health insurance company Anthem Inc. — have had their data compromised by hackers with ties to China. Now, United Airlines, the world’s second-largest airline, is believed to have been victimized by these same hackers. The airline detected the breach sometime between May and early June, but until now, had not made any kind of announcement to the public as investigators were looking deeper into the issue.

At this time, it is unclear how many people may have been affected by the United Airlines breach. Manifests, which include passenger information, origins, and destinations, were included in the stolen data.

Breaches Likely Targeting U.S. Government

It appears that China’s cyber attacks on the U.S. may be an attempt to gain as much data as possible on governmental operations. As one of the largest contractors with the U.S. government, United Airlines’ computer systems are undoubtedly filled with information regarding the travel schedules of American government officials, military personnel, and contractors.

It is believed that Chinese hackers have been targeting the U.S. for quite a while. Last year, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a report that detailed at least 50 hacks of the command’s contractors between June 2012 and May 2013. Flight plans and shipping routes were among the data stolen at that time.

In a story by Bloomberg, Tony Lawrence, a former Army sergeant and CEO of a cyber security firm said, “The Chinese have been trying to get flight information from the government; now it looks as if they’re trying to do the same in the commercial sectors.”

Affected Passengers May Not Hear from United Airlines

At this time, United Airlines has not made any public announcements. There are 47 states with breach notification laws and as of now, the private information included in the stolen data is likely not enough to fulfill the disclosure requirements. Most states will require notification when Social Security numbers or credit cards are stolen, but presently, the personal information taken from the flight manifests probably only contain names and birthdates of passengers.

A spokesperson for United said that the company is remaining “vigilant in protecting against unauthorized access.”

Even when companies like United Airlines say they are working to protect your personal information, the recent breaches at major organizations show that if hackers want to get your information, they will figure out a way. With outdated notification laws in place, many people could have their information compromised and never even know it.

Although IdentityForce can’t prevent hackers from accessing your private info, we can monitor your personal information 24/7 to ensure it is not being used illegally. If we discover that your information is being misused, you will be alerted immediately, giving you the power to act before the damage is done.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Bernal Saborio.

Judy Leary

President at IdentityForce
For Judy, identity theft protection is in her DNA—her dad started IdentityForce’s parent company in the 70s, and in the 80s, she and her brother came on board. She loves her dedicated team and how much they care about every member, partner, and supplier. In addition to protection against identity theft, Judy is passionate about travel (Aruba is her “happy place”!) and giving back. She volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association, Mazie Mentoring Program, and Sunshine Golden Retriever Rescue. She’s also a proud mom to 2 grown daughters and 3 rescue dogs.

Latest posts by Judy Leary (see all)

Join The Discussion

Your email address will never be published.