U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday that photos of travellers and licence plates collected at the nation's borders have been exposed in a malicious cyberattack in what a leading congressman called a "major privacy breach".
"In violation of CBP policies and without CBP's authorization or knowledge, [a subcontractor] transferred copies of license plate images and traveler images collected by CBP to the subcontractor's company network", CBP announced.
The best way to avoid these kinds of breaches, Guliani added, "is not to collect and retain such data in the first place".
"Initial information indicates that the subcontractor violated mandatory security and privacy protocols outlined in their contract", CBP said in a statement.More news: Trump still hangs tariff threat over Mexico despite deal
CBP said it first learned of the data breach in May.
The agency keeps a database of photographs of people as they travel into and out of the United States.
CBP said that none of the info had been spotted on either the dark web or the public internet, although the company in question might have had at least one leak.
None of the photos have ended up online, according to CBP, but the agency said in the statement that it's working to figure out, "the extent of the breach and the appropriate response". DFW International Airport uses the technology. The agency also claimed an investigation has been launched with the help of additional law enforcement, cybersecurity experts and CBP's own Office of Professional Responsibility.More news: Kim Kardashian shares first photo of son Psalm West
Recorded license plates are checked in real time against DHS databases to which 13 federal agencies have access.
The agency maintains a database including passport and visa photos that is used at airports as part of an agency facial-recognition program.
A further review of those files today uncovered at least 4,000.JPG and.TIF images of, among other things, license plates, some identified and some not, belonging to vehicles passing through CBP's checkpoints including those in Santa Teresa and Columbus, New Mexico, on the southern border with Mexico, and the Hidalgo Port of Entry on the Texas-Mexico border.
The chair of the U.S. House homeland security committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of MS, noted with alarm that this is the "second major privacy breach at DHS this year".More news: Shahid Kapoor looks chic and elegant in all black outfit
Those images are used as part of a growing agency facial-recognition program created to track the identity of people entering and exiting the U.S. "Unfortunately, this is the second major privacy breach at DHS this year", Thompson said, referring to a separate breach in which more than 2 million US disaster survivors had their information revealed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.