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Was American Attacked?! China-Linked Hackers Breach Yet Another U.S. Airline

Was American Attacked?! China-Linked Hackers Breach Yet Another U.S. Airline
Jeff Edwards

Officials are probing whether American Airlines computer systems were compromised by hackers believed to be gathering intelligence for the Chinese government.

The growing list of U.S. businesses and government agencies victimized by the recent rash of cyber-incursions might now include the world’s largest airline. Bloomberg reports that American Airlines is investigating the possibility that its computer system was breached by the same hackers who are believed to have stolen data from United Airlines, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and health insurer Anthem.

Investigators suspect the string of cyber-attacks is part of a coordinated effort by the Chinese government to compile detailed intelligence on U.S. citizens with security clearance or access to sensitive military, government or private sector inner-workings. In addition to private employee personnel records and medical histories, the computer incursions seem to be focused on learning the travel patterns of potential espionage targets.

The exact breadth of the personal information exposed by the series of travel industry data breeches in recent months is not yet fully understood. Probable cyber-incursions at American and the travel logistics firm Sabre have only come to light in the last few days. According to its own promotional material, Sabre maintains the booking and travel records of more than one billion global travelers annually.

While cyber-defense experts view China as a growing threat to security, the Chinese deny any involvement in computer espionage whatsoever. “The Chinese government and the personnel in its institutions never engage in any form of cyberattack,” Zhu Haiquan, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy told Bloomberg. “We firmly oppose and combat all forms of cyberattacks.”

Tony Lawrence, the head of VOR Technology, a company that counts the U.S. Department of Defense among its clients, disagrees, “The Chinese are what I would call the bullies of cyberspace: Everybody knows what they’re doing, but nobody can stop them.”

[Photo: iStock]

View Comments (2)


  1. chitownjeff

    August 11, 2015 at 5:58 am

    How does this still happen? I mean, I enter a wrong password 3 times and my account is locked. And haven’t they learned to have programs monitoring the system for “odd” activity. Just don’t understand….

  2. danielchee

    May 11, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Cutting corners and not properly separating general public facing vs secured backend data networks. However, even if the infrastructure is secure, poorly written software leaves multitudes of potential entry points for hackers.

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