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Sunwing Airlines (Canada) Affected by Third-Party Data Breach

Canadian airline Sunwing, known for its lower priced flights, has suffered a data breach. The breach is the result of an intrusion at a third-party vendor named Airline Choice, a company that provides platforms to airlines in an effort to make day-to-day functions such as passenger check-in easier. Only a “limited number” of Airline Choice’s computer systems were affected, and they took their systems offline until further information could be found. By the time Airline Choice had made the discovery, Sunwing was already affected. Jets were grounded, causing some passengers to have their flights delayed by hours, and even days. Sunwing has started checking in passengers offline and by hand, which is taking a lot longer. They’ve also transferred some passengers to flights on other carriers, to help speed up the process. A traveler who flew Sunwing to Cancun made comments about the situation stating, “I work in software, so I’m just really surprised that they weren’t better prepared,” he said. “If your system gets breached, you’ve got to be on top of that.”

Analyst Notes

Data breaches can strike any company at any time. In some situations, a security incident at a 3rd-party service provider can impact operations at companies that depend on the service. It’s important to factor that into disaster recovery and business continuity planning, and always have an alternate plan if the service provider fails. Some things that companies and individuals can do to keep themselves safer and reduce the chances of being affected by a data breach include:
• Regularly back up data, air gap, and password protect backup copies offline.
• Ensure copies of critical data are not accessible for modification or deletion from the system where the data resides.
• Implement network segmentation
• Implement a recovery plan to maintain and retain multiple copies of sensitive or proprietary data and servers in a physically separate, segmented, secure location (i.e., hard drive, storage device, the cloud).
• Install updates/patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as practical after they are released. Implement monitoring of security events on employee workstations and servers, with a 24/7 Security Operations Center to detect threats and respond quickly.
• Use multifactor authentication where possible.
• Use strong passwords and regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts, implementing the shortest acceptable timeframe for password changes.
• Avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts.
• Focus on cyber security awareness and training.
• Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities.