Millions hit in airline data hack

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By Kyunghee Park and Jinshan Hong at Bloomberg:

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said a hacker accessed personal information of 9.4 million customers, becoming the target of the world’s biggest airline data breach.

The airline’s shares sank the most in almost two years, shaving $201 million off its market value, after the Hong Kong-based carrier disclosed the unauthorized access late Wednesday, seven months after discovering the violation. While passports, addresses, and emails were exposed, flight safety wasn’t compromised and there was no evidence any information has been misused, it said, without revealing details of the origin of the attack.

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“This is quite shocking,” said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consulting firm Endau Analytics in Malaysia. “It’s probably the biggest breach of information in the aviation sector.”

Affecting more people than the population of Cathay Pacific’s home base of Hong Kong, the hack is in another league to breaches reported by British Airways Plc and Delta Air Lines Inc. this year. Those carriers boosted spending on cybersecurity after hacks, which saw personal and financial information of hundreds of thousands of customers illegally accessed.

“At this point, we believe it is uncertain if Cathay Pacific would be liable to any fines imposed by government authorities for such a breach,” Geoffrey Cheng, an analyst at Bocom International Holdings Co., wrote in a research note Thursday. “However, we expect the share price jitters to linger on for a while.”

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The data breach at Cathay — a partner of British Airways in the Oneworld airline alliance — adds to the carrier’s woes, with Chief Executive Officer Rupert Hogg trying to turn it around after two straight annual losses.

“I’m truly sorry for the concern this may have caused you,” Hogg said, addressing customers in a video posted to the carrier’s website.

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