American Airlines too has fallen victim to China-linked hackers. Sabre, which processes reservations for hotels and airlines has also confirmed that its computer systems were breached recently. The two companies were hacked by the same group of China-linked hackers that had previously breached into systems of health insurer Anthem and stolen records of the U.S. intelligence agencies, three people familiar with the investigation told Bloomberg.
The biggest attack on American travel industry
It is the biggest cyber attack on the U.S. travel industry. Last week, cyber security experts said the same group of attackers breached into the database of United Airlines in May or early June. The Chinese government could use data stolen from these organizations to build profiles of American contractors and officials. Beijing can establish information that could be used to blackmail American officials into providing intelligence.
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Sabre claims to be the repository of over a billion travelers every year from across the globe. So, it could easily be one of the biggest targets for state-sponsored cyber attacks. American Airlines is still investigating whether hackers intruded into its own systems via Sabre. The two share network infrastructure as Sabre was once a subsidiary of American Airlines. It was spun off into an independent entity in 2000.
Activity logs in American Airlines’ systems point to the same group
Attacks on Sabre and American Airlines are consistent with hacking of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, sources told Bloomberg. Investigators provided American Airlines with IP addresses used to breach the OPM. Unsurprisingly, the IP addresses matched activity found in the American’s system logs. However, the airliner is yet to officially confirm the intrusion.
Even before the hacks into United, American Airlines, and Sabre were disclosed, Internet security firm FireEye had said that the same China-linked group had attacked at least 10 organizations since 2013. The Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington Zhu Haiquan outrightly refuted the allegations. Haiquan said the Chinese government and institutions never indulge into any form of cyberattack.