Virgin America workers reset passwords after hacker's crash landing

I picked a hell of a day to quit sniffing packets


Virgin America's staff and contractors have been told to change their passwords after a hacker raided the airline's systems.

The T-Mobile-USA-of-the-skies revealed in a letter to its workforce that its network was compromised by one or more miscreants. A copy of the missive was, as required by law, shared with California's employment officials, who made it public this week. The intrusion was detected in mid-March.

According to the memo, the hacker swiped login information and passwords used to access Virgin America’s corporate network. Some 3,120 employees and contractors had their credentials lifted, and 110 folks may have had their personal information taken, too. Alaska Airlines, which owns Virgin America, is not affected.

A spokesperson for VA told us:

As part of our security monitoring, we identified potential unauthorized access to certain Virgin America Computer systems. The unauthorized third party gained access to a limited amount of information, including logins and passwords for Virgin America employees and contractors.

After conducting an investigation, we did not identify evidence that this affected any Alaska Airlines employees or systems. Customer data for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines was not impacted.

3120 employees/contractors potentially had their log in credentials potentially compromised

110 additional employees/contractors/vendors had additional information including addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s license or government issued IDs, or health-related information that may have been affected.

We take the protection of personal information seriously. We are in the process of notifying potentially impacted employees, contractors, and vendors about this issue and are providing them with guidance and resources to protect themselves.

We have implemented additional security policies, procedures and tools to enhance our security program, and will continue to evaluate additional security enhancements going forward. We have also changed our password policies, and will now require employees and contractors to rotate/change their passwords every 90 days.

Virgin America is yet another hacking statistic. However, some pundits praised the airline's incident response.

"While details aren't clear as to who breached Virgin America's systems, or how, the fact that Virgin was able to detect the breach itself demonstrates the value and requirement in having good security monitoring and threat detection capabilities in place to discover breaches rapidly in order to minimize impact," said Javvad Malik of AlienVault.

Mark James of ESET told us: "The good things to take from this are that they spotted they had been hacked and have notified the affected parties. The bad, of course, is that hackers were able to get away with data that is unchangeable." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • EU-US Trade and Technology Council meets to coordinate on supply chains
    Agenda includes warning system for disruptions, and avoiding 'subsidy race' for chip investments

    The EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) is meeting in Paris today to discuss coordinated approaches to global supply chain issues.

    This is only the second meeting of the TTC, the agenda for which was prepared in February. That highlighted a number of priorities, including securing supply chains, technological cooperation, the coordination of measures to combat distorting practices, and approaches to the decarbonization of trade.

    According to a White House pre-briefing for US reporters, the EU and US are set to announce joint approaches on technical discussions to international standard-setting bodies, an early warning system to better predict and address potential semiconductor supply chain disruptions, and a transatlantic approach to semiconductor investments aimed at ensuring security of supply.

    Continue reading
  • US cops kick back against facial recognition bans
    Plus: DeepMind launches new generalist AI system, and Apple boffin quits over return-to-work policy

    In brief Facial recognition bans passed by US cities are being overturned as law enforcement and lobbyist groups pressure local governments to tackle rising crime rates.

    In July, the state of Virginia will scrap its ban on the controversial technology after less than a year. California and New Orleans may follow suit, Reuters first reported. Vermont adjusted its bill to allow police to use facial recognition software in child sex abuse investigations.

    Elsewhere, efforts are under way in New York, Colorado, and Indiana to prevent bills banning facial recognition from passing. It's not clear if some existing vetoes set to expire, like the one in California, will be renewed. Around two dozen US state or local governments passed laws prohibiting facial recognition from 2019 to 2021. Police, however, believe the tool is useful in identifying suspects and can help solve cases especially in places where crime rates have risen.

    Continue reading
  • RISC-V needs more than an open architecture to compete
    Arm shows us that even total domination doesn't always make stupid levels of money

    Opinion Interviews with chip company CEOs are invariably enlightening. On top of the usual market-related subjects of success and failure, revenues and competition, plans and pitfalls, the highly paid victim knows that there's a large audience of unusually competent critics eager for technical details. That's you.

    Take The Register's latest interview with RISC-V International CEO Calista Redmond. It moved smartly through the gears on Intel's recent Platinum Membership of the open ISA consortium ("they're not too worried about their x86 business"), the interest from autocratic regimes (roughly "there are no rules, if some come up we'll stick by them"), and what RISC-V's 2022 will look like. Laptops. Thousand-core AI chips. Google hyperscalers. Edge. The plan seems to be to do in five years what took Arm 20.

    RISC-V may not be an existential risk to Intel, but Arm had better watch it.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022