United Airlines has confirmed that it has suffered a data and network breach that occurred during the same time frame as the OPM breach. Investigators suspect the same Chinese state-sponsored hackers are responsible for both breaches. One theory being advanced about the connection between the two breaches is that the Chinese state-sponsored hackers are targeting specific databases in order to cross reference and index federal employees’ travel so the information can be quickly searchable and can be used to determine U.S. intelligence priorities.
It is reported that the United Airlines hackers obtained flight manifests that included passenger names and other personal information, flight paths and origins and destinations. The scary part about it is that United is a primary airline operating out of Dulles International Airport, which is the closest to CIA headquarters. The OPM information, cross-referenced to flight manifests of federal employees may give China a tremendous amount of information about where certain federal employees are traveling to obtain intelligence. The sophistication of hackers, particularly state-sponsored hackers cannot be over emphasized.