Photos used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an effort to protect travelers have been taken in an attack against a federal subcontractor. Officials confirmed the compromise, which they described as part of a malicious cyberattack.
While the agency declined to give details about the photos accessed by the attacker, the subcontractor is known to maintain databases of photos that include passport and visa photos, license plate images, and images from facial recognition systems.
According to the agency, a subcontractor transferred CBP data to its network, which was subsequently hacked. "The issue with subcontractors is that you can't completely control how they secure their network," says Pierluigi Stella, CTO of Network Box USA. "You can ask for certifications, financials, controls, and attestations, but there is always a limit to how much you can demand."
In its statement announcing the breach, CBP said it has " ... removed from service all equipment related to the breach and is closely monitoring all CBP work by the subcontractor."
The breach comes as CBP is increasing its use of facial recognition and other image-based security. "This incident further underscores the need to put the brakes on these efforts and for Congress to investigate the agency’s data practices," said Neema Singh Guliani, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. "The best way to avoid breaches of sensitive personal data is not to collect and retain such data in the first place."
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