Cyberattacks have hit the nation’s air-travel system and sources close to the investigation of the attacks confirmed a group of Chinese hackers are the main suspects, Bloomberg reported late last week.
Travel reservations distributor Sabre Corp. confirmed a recent breach to its system, while American Airlines is actively investigating if hackers were able to gain access to its computers.
"We recently learned of a cybersecurity incident," Sabre told Reuters via email. "At this time, we are not aware that this incident has compromised sensitive protected information, such as credit card data or personally identifiable information, but our investigation is ongoing."
But American Airlines spokesman Casey Norton confirmed the company has yet to find any evidence of sensitive customer data being compromised.
"American has worked with outside cybersecurity experts who checked digital signatures, IP addresses and the style of attack, and there's no evidence to suggest a breach similar to that experienced by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management," Norton said in an email to Reuters.
According to people close to the cybersecurity investigations, American Airlines and Sabre both fell victim to attacks by the same China-based hackers who recently launched massive attacks on health care provider Anthem and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management earlier this year.
The latest attacks on the travel industry come just weeks after reports surfaced that the same collection of Chinese hackers went after the world’s second-largest airline, United Airlines, back in May or early June.
The reputation Chinese cybercriminals have for data heists precedes them, but it’s disquieting because accessing travel information, including passenger data, origins and destinations, may allow them to identify key people working in defense and intelligence as well as payroll information on government contractors.
Bloomberg confirmed this type of information has the potential to allow a foreign government to build profiles of both U.S. official and contractors, which could later be used as leverage to gain intelligence information.