Published: Tue, June 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Hackers have stolen photos of travelers taken by the USA border agency

Hackers have stolen photos of travelers taken by the USA border agency

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has disclosed that hackers breached a subcontractor's systems and stole photographs the agency had taken of travelers and vehicle license plates at border crossings.

Less than 100,000 people had their information compromised by the attack, according to a law enforcement official.

"In violation of CBP policies and without CBP's authorization or knowledge, [a subcontractor] transferred copies of license plate images and traveler images collected by CBP to the subcontractor's company network", CBP added.

The subcontractor "violated mandatory security and privacy protocols outlined in their contract", according to CBP, which said it was unaware of the image copies transfers.

In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said none of the leaked images have turned up yet on the Dark Web or internet.

News of the breach comes as facial recognition tech has been the subject of a growing debate among civil liberty groups and lawmakers, who have raised concerns related to false matches and arrests while balancing the need for public safety.

Last fall, airport and federal officials showed off facial recognition technology, created to replace the paper boarding pass and speed up the worldwide flight boarding process.

On its website, the agency says that it routinely uses cameras and video recordings of people and vehicles seen at land border crossings and airports to form a growing agency facial-recognition program created to track the identity of people entering and leaving the country. "This incident further underscores the need to put the brakes on these efforts and for Congress to investigate the agency's data practices".

"This breach comes just as CBP seeks to expand its massive face recognition apparatus and collection of sensitive information from travelers, including license plate information and social media identifiers", said Guliani.

A lighted sign directs vehicles entering the Anzalduas port of entry informs them of capture facial biometrics as they wait to enter the Untied States from Mexico.

But CBP makes extensive use of cameras and video recordings at the arrival halls of global airports as well as land border crossings, where vehicle license plates are also captured. The agency didn't say how people were affected or how many images were stolen.

Perceptics, based in Farragut, Tennessee, has championed its technology as a key part of keeping borders secure. It's these photos database that the hacker gained access to.

"Government use of biometric and personal identifiable information can be valuable tools only if utilized properly".

The U.K. computer security website The Register, which said the hacker responsible alerted it to the breach in late May, identified the company as Perceptics.

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