Questions mount over delay after Cathay Pacific admits huge data leak

Questions mount over delay after Cathay Pacific admits huge data leak

HONG KONG,. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific came under pressure today to explain why it had taken five months to admit it had been hacked and compromised the data of 9.4 million customers, including passport numbers and credit card details.

The airline said Wednesday it had discovered suspicious activity on its network in March and confirmed unauthorised access to certain personal data in early May.

However, chief customer and commercial officer Paul Loo said officials wanted to have an accurate grasp on the situation before making an announcement and did not wish to “create unnecessary panic”.

News of the leak sent shares in Cathay, which was already under pressure as it struggles for customers, plunging more than six percent to a nine-year low in Hong Kong trading.

And local politicians slammed the carrier, saying its response had only fuelled worries.

“Whether the panic is necessary or not is not for them to decide, it is for the victim to decide. This is not a good explanation at all to justify the delay,” said IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok.

And Legislator Elizabeth Quat said the delay was “unacceptable” as it meant customers missed five months of opportunities to take steps to safeguard their personal data.

The airline admitted about 860,000 passport numbers, 245,000 Hong Kong identity card numbers, 403 expired credit card numbers and 27 credit card numbers with no card verification value (CVV) were accessed.

Other compromised passenger data included nationalities, dates of births, phone numbers, emails, and physical addresses.

“We have no evidence that any personal data has been misused. No-one’s travel or loyalty profile was accessed in full, and no passwords were compromised,” chief executive Rupert Hogg said in a statement Wednesday.

Probe launched

But Mok said the public needs to know how the company can prove that was the case.

“Such a statement doesn’t give people absolute confidence that we are completely safe, and it doesn’t mean that some of this data would not be misused later,” Mok told AFP.