Dozens of members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit’s host committee who submitted to background checks ahead of a meeting with President Obama may have been the victims of a data breach, according to an Associated Press report.
An unknown individual gained unauthorized access to eight of their computers beginning October 25, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported, citing Karen Knudsen, a spokesperson for the East-West Center. If the reports are true, the stolen information would likely include birth-dates, Social Security Numbers and other information for attendees to the high-level summit.
The APEC Summit this month brought leaders of Pacific Rim nations including China, Russia, Japan, Australia, Singapore and the U.S. to Honolulu, Hawaii to talk about opportunities for economic cooperation and development in the region. The event was notable both for the terse exchanges between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, and for Mr. Obama’s decision to give a pass to the APEC tradition of dressing world leaders in outfits that reflect local traditions and cultures.
Following the event, the East-West Center reportedly sent a letter to those potentially affected, telling them that there is no evidence that the information was actually accessed, but that they could not determine for sure that the information was not accessed either.
The East-West Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Officials told the AP that security clearance information was not believed to be the target of the alleged breach, though APEC has not confirmed that. Federal authorities are aware of the incident, but the FBI would not confirm that an investigation is taking place.
“I can confirm that the Honolulu FBI is aware of these allegations,” Special Agent Tom Simon of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office told Threatpost via email that, “but I cannot confirm or deny the existence of any ongoing investigation unless or until formal charges are filed.”
The US Secret Service said they were not investigating the matter and referred questions to the FBI.
Government agencies, embassies and other political and economic groups have been the targets of cyber attack in recent years. Most recently, the Japanese media reported on a series of attacks that used malicious software to infiltrate Japanese embassies. A recent report by the U.S. Government’s Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive warned of a campaign of cyber espionage with apparent links to both Russia and China.