Personal Data Of 45,000 Exposed In FAA Data Breach

Agency warns employees of potential threat, but isn't saying how the breach occurred

Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading, Contributor

February 10, 2009

2 Min Read

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is warning some 45,000 employees that their personal data may have been compromised in a hack of one of its computer systems.

A notice about the FAA breach says that "an agency computer was illegally accessed and employee personal identity information was stolen electronically." Affected employees will receive individual letters to notify them about the breach, the notice says.

"Two of the 48 files on the breached computer server contained personal information about more than 45,000 FAA employees and retirees who were on the FAA's rolls as of the first week of February 2006," the notice continues. "The server that was accessed was not connected to the operation of the air traffic control system or any other FAA operational system, and the FAA has no indication those systems have been compromised in any way."

The FAA says it is "moving quickly to prevent any similar incidents and has identified immediate steps as well as longer-term measures to further protect personal information." The agency is also providing a toll-free number and information on its employee Website for those who believe they may be affected by the breach. The statement does not offer any details on how or when the breach occurred, or how it was discovered.

But in an Associated Press report, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown confirms the agency's computers were hacked last week.

In the rsame eport, Tom Waters, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3290, says FAA officials briefed union leaders Monday about the security breach.

Union leaders were told hackers gained access to two files, Waters says. One file had the names and Social Security numbers of 45,000 employees and retirees on the FAA's rolls as of February 2006. Waters says the other file contained medical information that was encrypted.

"These government systems should be the best in the world, and apparently they are able to be compromised," says Waters, an FAA contracts attorney. "Our information technology systems people need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their capabilities. This is malpractice in their world."

FAA officials told union leaders that the incident was the first of its kind at the agency. But Waters says his union complained about three or four years ago about an incident in which employees received anti-union message that used names and addresses that appeared to have been generated from FAA computer files.

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About the Author(s)

Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading


Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one of the top cyber security journalists in the US in voting among his peers, conducted by the SANS Institute. In 2011 he was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Voices in Security by SYS-CON Media.

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