U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that photos of travelers had been compromised as part of a "malicious cyberattack", raising concerns over how federal officials' expanding surveillance efforts could imperil Americans' privacy.
CBP said the data was stolen when a subcontractor transferred the images to the subcontractor's company network.
The attackers struck by targeting a third-party subcontractor, which had been storing the sensitive files over its own network.
The best way to avoid these kinds of breaches, Guliani added, "is not to collect and retain such data in the first place".
In a 2017 privacy document, the Department of Homeland Security said automated license-plate readers are used for 'detecting, identifying, apprehending, and removing individuals illegally entering the United States at and between ports of entry or otherwise violating USA law'.
Despite the hacker having access to the subcontractor's systems, the CBP said the hacker didn't manage to escalate access to the CBP's internal network.
The CBP says airport operations were not affected by the breach, but it declined to say how many people might have had their images stolen.
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It did not specify how many images may have been copied and said none of the data has been identified on the internet or Dark Web.
"CBP has alerted members of Congress and is working closely with other law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity entities, and its own Office of Professional Responsibility to actively investigate", the statement said. DFW International Airport uses the technology. But reporters at The Register, a British technology news site, reported late last month that a large haul of breached data from the firm Perceptics was being offered as a free download on the dark web.
CBP spokeswoman Jackie Wren said she was "unable to confirm" whether Perceptics was the source of the breach. The database includes passport headshots, but also images acquired from license plate readers, for all cars crossing a U.S. border.
It comes after revelations of CBP's planned expansion of its facial recognition technology at airports, where it would look to capture 97 percent of departing commercial air travelers from the us over the next four years.
"CBP will unwaveringly work with all partners to determine the extent of the breach and the appropriate response", the statement said.
The US Customs and Border Patrol today said hackers broke into one of its bungling technology subcontractors - and made off with images of people and their vehicle license plates as they passed through America's land border.
The Washington Post reported that the subcontractor might have been Perceptics, a Tennessee-based imaging company that provides vehicle license plate readers to the USA government, including at border checkpoints. Customs and Border Protection has only said that the agency's "air operations" were unaffected by the breach.