Air Canada admits app data breach included customers’ passport details

All 1.7 million users of Air Canada’s mobile app have had their passwords reset by the company following a security breach which saw hackers compromise up to 20,000 accounts last week.

A security notice published by the company explains that it detected “unusual login behaviour” related to the smartphone Air Canada app between August 22-24 2018, that may have seen 20,000 profiles “improperly accessed.”

20,000 profiles is – thankfully – just one per cent of the total number of users of the app, but that will be little comfort for those who have had their information compromised.

That’s particularly clear when you see the range of sensitive personal information exposed by the breach, including passport details:

  • name
  • email address
  • phone number
  • Air Canada account number
  • passport number
  • passport country of issuance
  • passport expiration date
  • country of passport issuance
  • nationality
  • NEXUS number
  • gender
  • country of residence
  • birth date

The company says that credit and payment card information was encrypted, and was not compromised in the security breach.

However, victims who have had their passport details stolen may face serious consequences, as fraudsters could use the details to set up accounts with insurance firms, mobile phone operators, banks and the like if they do not require sight of the physical passport.

As a consequence, victims might find themselves with ruined credit scores and bills, from which it may take a considerable length of time to untangle themselves.

There is also a risk that a fraudster could use the stolen information to request a new physical passport. However, Air Canada says that the Canadian government describes that risk as “low” provided the genuine passport holder still has physical ownership of the document.

BBC News, however, raises the issue that Air Canada required account passwords to merely be between 6 and 10 characters, and could not contain symbols. That, in itself, goes against the Canadian government’s own password advice.

However, it is not known if weak password policies played a part in the breach via Air Canada’s mobile app. And Air Canada says it has toughened password requirements since the incident, and users will be prompted to choose a new password next time they access the app or website.

Air Canada does offer some sensible advice – reminding customers to keep a close eye on their financial transactions, to contact their financial services provider if they see any unusual activity, and to “be aware of any changes to their credit rating”.

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