News & Opinion | June 11, 2019 2:58 pm

Tens of Thousands of Traveler Images Stolen in Border Agency Hack

The ironic breach at the Department of Homeland Security is raising questions about the federal government’s data security

Images of travelers and license plates were hacked in a digital breach
Images of travelers and license plates were hacked in a digital breach
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A recent digital breach of images stored by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has raised increased concerns about the federal government’s use and storage of data.

Tens of thousands of images of travelers and license plates were stolen in the breach, The New York Times reported Monday.

Officials at the agency disclosed the information this week, saying they first learned of the incident on May 31. Officials said the breach occurred when a federal subcontractor’s network was hacked after the subcontractor transferred copies of the images without the agency’s knowledge or permission.

Officials said no more than 100,000 people had their information stolen. The hacked data did not include images from the airports, but rather images of license plates of vehicles and their drivers crossing through one port of entry throughout a six-week period.

The agency said none of the hacked data has been identified on the dark web, which, as the Times notes, would make sense if the images were stolen for intelligence purposes, as they would not be expected to show up for sale on the internet.

News of the CBP breach comes just a week after the hack at Perceptics, a company that makes license plate readers used by the US government. According to the Times, it remains unclear if there is any connection between the two incidents.

Meanwhile, the CBP hack is a particularly ironic incident for the Department of Homeland Security, of which the CBP is a part. The DHS bears primary responsibility for cybersecurity inside the United States, so a breach at the CBP underlines a need for the DHS to start with the man in the mirror when it comes to cracking down on hacking threats.

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