Heathrow Airport hit by USB-powered data breach

October 30, 2017 // 10:23 a.m.

Tags: #data-breach #heathrow-airport #insecurity #security #usb-flash-drive #usb-stick

A USB flash drive dropped in the street has been found to contain gigabytes of sensitive data relating to security at Heathrow Airport, including details on the types of identification required to access restricted areas, patrol timetables, and maps of closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage.

In a report from the Sunday Mirror published this weekend it is claimed that an unnamed member of the public discovered a USB flash drive on the ground near a London library and opened it to discover 2.5GB of sensitive data in 76 folders. While full details of the files contained therein have not been released, the Sunday Mirror has summarised them as including: The route taken by the Queen when using the airport and the security measures in place for her protection; information on the types of identification required for restricted area access; a patrol timetable for security personnel; maps with information on CCTV camera coverage, tunnels, and escape shafts; security and route information for Cabinet ministers and foreign dignitaries; and information on the ultrasound security system used to scan runways and the perimeter fence.

While losing a small, pocket-sized USB flash drive is forgiveable, the fact that none of the files were encrypted - or even protected with a weak password - is less so. For Heathrow, it's one of the biggest data breaches in the airport's history - and as of this weekend the investigation still hadn't found whether the files were compiled and lost by an incompetent but well-meaning staffer or for malicious purposes by a would-be attacker.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport has stated that airport users are not at risk as a result of the breach. 'Heathrow’s top priority is the safety and security of our passengers and colleagues. The UK and Heathrow have some of the most robust aviation ­security measures in the world and we remain vigilant to evolving threats by updating our procedures on a daily basis,' the company's official statement reads. 'We have reviewed all of our security plans and are confident that Heathrow remains secure.'


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