Pilot Union APA Discloses Ransomware Attack Following Disruptions

  • By Steven
  • Nov 06, 2023

Pilot Union Discloses Ransomware Attack

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) is the collective pilot agent for American Airlines; it provides a range of services to 15,000 members, including acting as a bargaining entity. On October 30th, the APA experienced a network disturbance—a ransomware cyberattack potentially exposing members.

How Did the Attack Occur? 

The APA describes the beginning of the attack as the downing of their servers. Once those were offline, the actors severed connections between the website and secure member pages; they had access to a significant amount of APA data while professionals fought to get control. The attack was severe, forcing the APA to update members via social media because they could not access the website. The threat actors also enabled the encryption of specific systems. Altogether, the attack elements suggest the event was a ransomware attack. Nothing else is public about how the incident was made possible. 

What Information Was Viewed or Stolen? 

It is unclear what information may have been copied or encrypted by the hackers. The investigation also remains ongoing, which means consequences are undetermined. If the threat actors breached the systems looking for network access, they may have a significant asset to ransom. On the other hand, if they targeted member information, any APA member may have data at risk for misuse. It’s still too early to determine the scope of the attack; however, members should take preventative action with their credentials. 

How Did the Allied Pilots Association Admit to the Breach? 

The APA’s notice suggests the attack happened on October 30th. Immediately upon discovery, the association launched response procedures, including engaging with third-party cybersecurity experts. A day later, they released a series of X posts, claiming many services would be operational soon. On November 2nd, they published their cybersecurity incident notice online. The notice does not state when the investigation should end, but it may take up to a month. Cautious members don’t have to wait for the investigations to finish before taking defensive action; by the time the notice arrives, the actors may have had the data for two months. 

What Will Become of the Stolen Information? 

Although the preliminary investigation has determined the attack to be a ransomware event, the encrypted data types are still unknown. The data type could be related to vendors or providers of APA, which would increase the likelihood of paying the ransom; however, if the data type is primarily member personal information, APA may not pay the ransom. Regardless of the APA’s response to the threat, members should take steps to mitigate the potential misuse of their data. 

What Should Affected Parties Do in the Aftermath of the Breach? 

APA members and associates can take defensive action before the internal investigations are complete—especially those worried about suspicious activity within their accounts. When the investigation finishes, the APA will physically mail impacted parties’ data breach notices. Along with this letter will come the suggestions to seek monitoring services and use caution online. Members should also consider changing all their account passwords, updating and cleaning their devices, and enabling multi-factor authentications. Take action now to mitigate future damage.

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