By GREGORY KATZ
The Associated Press
LONDON — Hackers obtained the credit card details of some 380,000 British Airways travelers during a two-week data breach this summer that leaves the customers vulnerable to financial fraud, the airline says.
BA’s CEO, Alex Cruz, said today that enough data was stolen to allow criminals to use credit card information for illicit purposes, and that police are investigating.
“We know that the information that has been stolen is name, address, email address, credit card information; that would be credit card number, expiration date and the three-letter code in the back of the credit card,” he told the BBC.
He added that no passport data had been obtained in what he called a “very sophisticated, malicious criminal attack,” but that British Airways is “100 percent committed” to compensating customers.
Consumer advice website MoneySavingExpert says customers who were swept up in the data breach should first seek advice from their bank, then monitor bank and credit card statements closely for signs of possible fraudulent activity.
It also warns of possible “phishing scams” in which hackers would try to trick affected consumers into revealing personal information like pincodes or banking passwords.
Some angry travelers complained to Britain’s Press Association that they had already noted bogus activity on credit cards that had been used to make British Airways bookings during the time when the breach was undetected.
The hack once again puts the spotlight on the strength of the IT systems at major companies as they expand their digital services.
British Airways experienced an IT-related crisis in May last year when roughly 75,000 passengers were stranded after the airline cancelled more than 700 flights over three days because of system problems.
In the U.S., Delta Airlines said in April that payment-card information for several hundred thousand customers could have been exposed by a malware breach months earlier. The same breach also hit Sears Holdings Corp., which operates Kmart stores.
British Airways revealed the new hack Thursday evening and began notifying customers. Travelers who booked on the company website or mobile app from Aug. 21 until Sept. 5 may have been affected.
“British Airways is communicating with affected customers and we advise any customers who believe they may have been affected by this incident to contact their banks or credit card providers and follow their recommended advice,” the company said in its statement. The hack was not discovered until Wednesday and has now been resolved, officials said.