Data Breach Compromises Tens of Thousands of Travelers’ Images, License Plates

Data Breach Compromises Tens of Thousands of Travelers' Images, License Plates

A subcontractor of U.S. Customs & Border Protection transferred images of travelers and license plates to its network without CBP’s authorization or knowledge. He was subsequently hacked, and the information was compromised.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has announced a data breach has compromised tens of thousands of traveler’s information. According to the agency, a subcontractor transferred the images to its network “in violation of CBP policies and without CBP’s authorization or knowledge.” The subcontractor was subsequently hacked.

A CBP spokesperson said that the images contain fewer than 100,000 people in vehicles entering and exiting the United States “through a few specific lanes a single land border Port of Entry over a 1.5-month period.” The photos include drivers in their cars and the license plates of vehicles. No photos were obtained from any airport. Officials have also stated that no passport or other travel document photos were compromised. CBP said none of the image data had been identified on the dark web or internet as of Monday.

Dan Tuchler, CMO at SecurityFirst, said that the misuse of facial recognition technology as well as license plate tracking software is currently a contentious topic, and this breach only breeds more ground for the matter to be discussed.

“We don’t want to live in a police state,” Tuchler said. “With the theft of photos of people entering or exiting the country, will hackers use these photos in combination with other data to create problems for citizens and travelers? Once again it is a partner that was hacked. Every responsible organization needs to be vigilant and ensure that their partners are securing vital data.”

Interestingly enough, this breach occurred just as airlines and U.S. authorities are beginning to use facial recognition technology for customs, check-in, baggage drop, security, and boarding. In lieu of the breach, more opposition to the facial recognition technology may arise.

John Gunn, CMO of OneSpan, said that biometric technology is not inherently bad, but must be applied correctly to keep the misuse to a minimum.

“Biometric technology is too often misrepresented by the media and certain fanatics as a Big-Brother conspiracy,” Gunn said. “It is not a panacea; it is a developing technology that is imperfect and has weaknesses and vulnerabilities like every technological advance in our history, but the net sum gain of its use is indisputably positive.”

CBP said in a statement that the equipment involved in the breach has been removed, and Congress has been informed. While there is speculation, there is still no clear answer on which subcontractor was involved in the breach.

About the Author

Kaitlyn DeHaven is the Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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