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Attacks/Breaches

4/7/2011
08:42 PM
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Thousands Of US Airways Pilots Victims Of Possible Insider Data Breach

Pilot union says US Airways employee leaked personal data of 3,000 pilots

The US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) said it has been working with the FBI for several months in the wake of a leak of personal information of 3,000 of the airline union's pilots.

A spokesman for US Airways today declined to comment on specifics of the case, but confirmed that some two-thirds of the airline's pilots -- 3,000 of its employees -- were affected by the breach. "We take any claim of the breach of sensitive data very seriously," the spokesman said. US Airways is offering 12 months of LifeLock's identity theft watch services to the pilots, he said.

The USAPA, a union that represents 5,200 US Airways pilots, yesterday publicly expressed its frustration with the airline's handling of the case. The USAPA said the airline recently revealed that a management-level pilot leaked a database of US Airways pilot names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and possibly passport information to a third-party pilot group.

A former chief pilot at the airline reportedly handed over the information in an Excel document in October 2009 to the group, called Leonidas, which represents pilots from what was once America West, now part of US Airways, according to a published report. The leak appears to be associated with a long-running labor dispute and bad blood between former America West pilots and their counterparts at US Airways. Leonidas did not respond to requests for an interview.

According to the USAPA, the group "has acted to disrupt the ongoing negotiations between USAPA and US Airways currently under the auspices of the National Mediation Board and undermine USAPA’s bargaining objectives."

Mike Cleary, president of USAPA, said in a statement that US Airways pilots are "infuriated at the data breach perpetuated by a management official of the company for which they work."

"Thousands of us have been exposed to identity theft that could impact us for the rest of our lives. Further, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation has yet to determine the extent of the breach, we are concerned about the security of ALL information provided to US Airways – including our families’ personal information. US Airways collects personal information on US Airways employees' family members and information from passengers, such as credit card data," he said.

Cleary said US Airways mishandled the breach. "The union is also extremely disappointed by the Company’s lack of aggressive action to address this issue, first denying that a significant breach had even occurred, then equivocating concerning the extent of that breach, all the while taking no remedial action against the Company personnel involved in the breach. Significantly, the Company has also failed to take steps to provide lifelong protection to the pilots directly affected and adequately address the potential national security issues for all of our pilots and passengers."

US Airways told the USAPA that it has been assured by the parties that obtained the information that it would not be abused. "This is, of course, ludicrous," the USAPA's Cleary said. "It’s analogous to a bank robber promising he will not spend the stolen loot. We are demanding swift and aggressive action as we simultaneously take significant steps to hold both US Airways and the specific responsible parties liable for the damage caused."

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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