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U.S. Customs Data Breach Compromises Thousands of Travelers’ Information

By Danielle Dorsey

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The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reports that they learned of a data breach on May 31st in which tens of thousands of traveler photos and license plate information were accessed in a cyber attack.

The agency released a statement on Monday that the data breach was the result of a subcontractor who had violated CBP policies and transferred copies of traveler and license plate images to their company network. The subcontractor’s network was subsequently the victim of a cyberattack.

As of Monday, none of the data had been found on black market websites. CBP said that it’s working with law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity entities to investigate the incident.

Early reports indicate that up to 100,000 traveler images could be at risk. It’s believed that stolen pictures include those of travelers in vehicles entering and exiting the United States at a single land border port of entry over a period of six weeks. CBP did not specify from which port of entry was affected by the breach.

No passport or other travel document images were compromised, and no photographs of airline passengers from airport entry or exit ports were involved. CBP assures that all equipment related to the breach has been removed.

Federal agencies like CBP and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have been working together to expand the use of biometric technology, which includes both facial and fingerprint recognition, to easily verify travelers’ identities. The recent data breach demonstrates why some travelers are wary of such technologies.


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Danielle Dorsey

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