Hackers Hit US Customs to Steal Travelers' Photos, License Images

Hackers Hit US Customs to Steal Travelers' Photos, License Images

Hackers Hit US Customs to Steal Travelers' Photos, License Images

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that photos of travelers had been compromised as part of a "malicious cyberattack", raising concerns over how federal officials' expanding surveillance efforts could imperil Americans' privacy.

The CBP issued a statement outlining how it learned on May 31 that the unnamed contractor, against Uncle Sam's privacy rules and security measures, copied license plate scans and traveler pictures to its own network, only to have that network invaded by hackers and the data stolen.

"The best way to avoid breaches of sensitive personal data is not to collect and retain such data in the first place", ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement on Monday.

The CBP would not say which subcontractor was involved.

A CBP source said the images involved less than 100,000 people who were in vehicles entering and exiting the U.S. through a single border port of entry.

The agency keeps a database of photographs of people as they travel into and out of the United States.

CBP said "none of the image data has been identified on the dark web or internet", but declined to answer questions about the scope of the attack and stolen data, and refused to name the subcontractor.

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The agency has notified Congress and is working with law enforcement and cybersecurity entities to "determine the extent of the breach and the appropriate response", according to the statement. DFW International Airport uses the technology. But reporters at The Register, a British technology news site, reported late last month that a large haul of breached data from the firm Perceptics was being offered as a free download on the dark web.

The agency has a database of photos that include passport and visa photos used in facial-recognition systems.

"No other identifying information was included with the images".

The Washington Post reported that the subcontractor might have been Perceptics, a Tennessee-based imaging company that provides vehicle license plate readers to the us government, including at border checkpoints.

Perceptics, the Tennessee-based imaging software company, confirmed it was aware of the hack in an email to the Register.

Just last week, members of Congress grew skeptical of the FBI's ability to implement "adequate privacy and accuracy guardrails" for U.S. citizens after Government Accountability Office (GAO) representative Gretta Goodwin revealed the bureau's available database contained some "640 million photos" of Americans nationwide. "But at an e-gate, your face gets captured by the airline and then compared with a face database run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which reports back whether you're cleared to board".

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