British Airways customer data at risk after cyber attack

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·2 min read
A passenger is seen photographing a British Airways aircraft with his mobile telephone at Heathrow Airport near London in this March 15, 2009 file photo. British Airways slumped to a record loss, nearly doubled its debt pile and cancelled its dividend, adding the tough conditions made it impossible to give any guidance for the current period.  Europe's third-biggest airline by revenue posted operating losses of 220 million pounds ($347.5 million) on May 22, 2009, compared to a profit of 875 million pounds in 2007/08.      REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/    (BRITAIN TRANSPORT BUSINESS TRAVEL)
The UK flag carrier warned that some of its executive club members’ “names, membership numbers and some of their preferences, such as seating, had been impacted” via information it shares with partner airlines. Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

British Airways has warned that some of its executive club members’ information may have been put at risk after a cyber hack.

The company said it came after a “highly sophisticated” attack on an IT systems operator used by airlines.

In an email seen by the Telegraph on Friday, the UK flag carrier warned that some of its executive club members’ “names, membership numbers and some of their preferences, such as seating, had been impacted” via information it shares with partner airlines.

SITA, the firm which runs passenger processing systems for services such as ticketing and baggage control, said it became victim to a data breach on 24 February, involving a portion of passenger data stored on its servers.

However, BA confirmed that it does not use the Switzerland-based company for bookings and reservations. It added that customers’ financial information and their passwords were not affected as the IT firm does not have access to them.

“Please be reassured that this incident was not a breach of British Airways’ systems,” BA said.

It advised executive members to reset their account passwords as a precaution, the Telegraph reported.

A string of airlines including Cathay Pacific (0293.HK), Finnair (FIA1S.HE), Singapore Airlines (C6L.SI), Malaysia Airlines and Air New Zealand (AIR.NZ) have also told customers they have likewise been affected.

SITA services roughly 90% of the airline industry. It describes itself as the world’s leading specialist in air transport IT and communications and supplies hundreds of customers including Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline group.

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“We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about security threats, and, at the same time, cyber-criminals have become more sophisticated and active,” SITA said in a statement. “This was a highly sophisticated attack.

“SITA acted swiftly and initiated targeted containment measures. The matter remains under continued investigation by SITA’s Security Incident Response Team with the support of leading external experts in cyber-security.”

The news comes as spending on holidays surged in the week that the UK government announced its roadmap out of the coronavirus lockdown.

According to data from Lloyds Bank customer cards spending on holidays surged 109% compared to the week before prime minister Boris Johnson's announcement.

Figures showed that while total spending across the same period increased slightly, bookings soared at travel operators. Spending through travel agencies rose 102%, airlines 122%, cruise lines 85% and hotels 114%.

Off the back of the news, cultural exploits, including spending on music festivals and theatres, took in 272% more than the week prior.

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