NEWS5 March 2020

Cathay Pacific fined by ICO for data breach

News Privacy Travel UK

UK – The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Cathay Pacific Airways £500,000 for failing to protect customers’ personal data.

Cathay pacific_crop

Between October 2014 and May 2018, Cathay Pacific’s computer systems lacked sufficient security, which meant customers’ personal details were at risk.

This security breach affected 111,578 in the UK, and approximately 9.4m more worldwide.

The airline’s failure to secure its systems led to unauthorised access to passengers’ personal details including names, passport and identity details, dates of birth, postal and email addresses, phone numbers and historical travel information.

Cathay Pacific became aware of suspicious activity in March 2018 – when its database was subjected to a brute force attack, where numerous passwords or phrases are submitted with the hope of eventually guessing correctly.

Subsequently, Cathay Pacific employed a cyber-security firm, and they reported the incident to the ICO.

A catalogue of errors was found during the ICO’s investigation including: back-up files that were not password protected; unpatched internet-facing servers; use of operating systems that were no longer supported by the developer and inadequate anti-virus protection.

Steve Eckersley, ICO director of investigations, said: “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. At its most basic, the airline failed to satisfy four out of five of the National Cyber Security Centre’s basic Cyber Essentials guidance.”

The timing of this investigation by the ICO meant the case came under the Data Protection Act 1998 when the maximum financial penalty was £500,000.