Cathay Pacific under fire for poor response to breach

Shares of Cathay Pacific Airways slid nearly 7 per cent to a nine-year low on Thursday after it said data of about 9.4 million passengers of Cathay and its unit, Hong Kong Dragon Airlines, had been accessed without authorisation.

HONG KONG • Cathay Pacific came under pressure yesterday to explain why it had taken five months to admit it had been hacked and had the data of 9.4 million customers compromised, including passport numbers and credit card details.

The Hong Kong carrier said it had discovered suspicious activity on its network in March and confirmed unauthorised access to certain personal data in early May.

However, chief customer and commercial officer Paul Loo said officials wanted to have an accurate grasp on the situation before making an announcement and did not wish to "create unnecessary panic".

News of the leak sent shares in Cathay, which was already under pressure as it struggled for customers, plunging more than 6 per cent to a nine-year low in Hong Kong trading.

Local politicians slammed the carrier, saying its response had only fuelled worries.

"Whether the panic is necessary or not is not for them to decide, it is for the victim to decide. This is not a good explanation at all to justify the delay," said IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok.

And legislator Elizabeth Quat said the delay was "unacceptable" as it meant customers missed five months of opportunities to take steps to safeguard their personal data.

The airline admitted that about 860,000 passport numbers, 245,000 Hong Kong identity card numbers, 403 expired credit card numbers and 27 credit card numbers with no card verification value (CVV) were accessed.

Other compromised passenger data included nationalities, birth dates, phone numbers, e-mails, and physical addresses.

 

"We have no evidence that any personal data has been misused. No-one's travel or loyalty profile was accessed in full, and no passwords were compromised," chief executive Rupert Hogg said in a statement yesterday.

But Mr Mok said the public needs to know how the company can prove that was the case.

"Such a statement doesn't give people absolute confidence that we are completely safe, and it doesn't mean that some of this data would not be misused later," Mr Mok told Agence France-Presse. He also pointed out that the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation says any such breach should be reported within 72 hours.

Hong Kong's privacy commissioner Stephen Wong expressed "serious concern" over the breach in a statement yesterday and said the office would initiate a compliance check with the airline.

Cathay said it is in the process of contacting affected passengers and providing them with solutions to protect themselves.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Cathay Pacific under fire for poor response to breach'. Print Edition | Subscribe