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Monday, 23 March 2020 12:02

World's third largest cruise line Norwegian suffers data breach Featured

World's third largest cruise line Norwegian suffers data breach Image by afmax from Pixabay

The world's third largest cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line, has suffered a data breach, the British security firm DynaRisk says, adding that the email addresses and passwords of nearly 27,000 travel agents had been exposed as a result.

DynaRisk said its researchers had found a breached database from the NCL travel agents' portal on a hacking forum on 13 March. After first verifying that the data records were authentic, it then contacted a representative of the cruise line.

NCL got in touch with DynaRisk only five days after this, and the security outfit said it was unsure whether the travel agents had been notified of the breach.

"The data was breached from Norwegian’s travel agent portal on 12 March and contains information belonging to nearly 27,000 travel agents who use the cruise line’s websites," DynaRisk said.

"The information included clear text passwords and email addresses used to log-in to the portal and concerns agents working for companies including TUI and Virgin Holidays."

DynaRisk said the database contained 29,969 data records, 24,602 of which were unique.

"Already vulnerable at this time, the travel agents on the list are at higher risk of cyber crime," it added. "They are now exposed to account takeovers on numerous platforms, sophisticated phishing emails and fraud which could put further pressure on large travel agents or worse still, put smaller agents out of business."

ncl hack

The breached database was discovered on a hackers' forum on 13 March. Courtesy DynaRisk

An NCL spokesperson told iTWire in response to a request for comment: "It has recently come to our attention that the website may have been compromised. As a precaution, the website has been shut down. It had no affiliation or connection to the broader NCLH networks, systems or databases.

"In an abundance of caution, we are in the process of asking certain travel partners that may have been affected to change their password for the site and any site for which they may have used the same password, and to remain vigilant of any suspicious activity or emails.

"We believe limited personal information was involved, specifically names of travel agencies and business contact information such as business addresses and email.

"This appears to be a unique and isolated incident that involved only a regional travel partner portal which houses marketing materials and educational information and did not include guest, employee or payment data. We are deeply committed to protecting the security and confidentiality of information and regret any concern this matter may have caused."

NCL was founded in 1966 and recorded US$6.06 billion in 2018, according to Wikipedia. It is headquartered in Miami, Florida.

James Carder, chief security officer and vice-president, of security research, analytics, and threat intelligence outfit LogRhythm Labs, said: "NCL experienced a credential dump, and while on the one hand, we unfortunately see credential dumps occurring on practically a weekly basis, it does also mean that we are well aware of many best practices that Norwegian (and others) can implement to minimise further damage and prevent this from happening in the future.

"The first step — which Norwegian has already recommended — is for all of its agents to change their portal passwords, as well as any other passwords they’ve been using to access multiple applications.

"Right now, the biggest risk is what else the attackers are able to access with this credential dump, given that so many people still practice poor password hygiene and use the same password across multiple systems – whether they’re for business or personal use. So getting everyone to change their passwords is an easy way to prevent potential exposure of other sensitive data."

Carder said he also recommended that Norwegian implemented multifactor authentication on the agency portal.

"This would mean that in the future, even if an attacker managed to steal more passwords, they wouldn’t automatically be able to access the system," he said.

"They would also need to figure out a way to sidestep the secondary authentication factor, making it much more difficult to breach the system. And since hackers like easy targets, this might be enough to discourage them from further pursuit.

"Lastly, Norwegian should also ensure they implement monitoring and detection controls for their portal, systems, and applications — especially those that are Internet-accessible. This will make it easier to automatically identify suspicious activity and remediate potential threats quickly."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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