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News18 » Tech
1-min read

US Customs and Border Protection Reports Facial Recognition Data Breach

The US Customs officials disclosed details about a malicious cyberattack, raising concerns about how surveillance data was handled.

Shouvik Das | News18.com

Updated:June 13, 2019, 4:43 PM IST

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has suffered a significant data beach of potentially grave consequence, that has compromised facial recognition and vehicle license plate data of close to 100,000 people. The data breach, however, apparently did not affect CBP's internal servers, and was instead breached in a cyberattack on the sub-contracted agency that was tasked with processing the data.

The breach, first reported by The Washington Post, has raised a host of serious questions regarding data collection and surveillance practices by US government departments. The surveillance in question was linked with the cameras outside an airport near the Canadian border, and recorded the faces of individuals entering and exiting the airport in vehicles, and linked them to the vehicle number plates that they entered or exited. The data also recorded information on tourists that visited the country, and while the breach itself was reported on May 31, the period of time through which the data was collected remains undisclosed.

The CBP has reportedly claimed that the data has not surfaced on the dark web, which is where most breached data surfaces -- either on sale, or in some cases, even as free downloads. As per the government agency, no personal identification documents were breached in the hack. However, separate reports across the internet had earlier reported that a large database of information was offered upon the dark web as a free download, although it is not yet clear if the two reports can be linked.

Sources that Washington Post spoke to expressed concerns regarding the level of safety that government agencies imposed on the data that has been collected as part of surveillance efforts. The massive data collection efforts make for an attractive treasure trove that attracts hackers, which makes it even more attractive for hackers to target the data sources.

Further development on the situation is awaited, with the CBP and other government officials yet to issue further statements on the extent to which private data has been compromised.

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