China linked to latest cyber attacks on American travel industry

Another hack traced back to China

The same group of hackers that hacked the US government's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may be behind the latest hacks on the travel industry. The latest targets include Sabre Corp., which processes reservations for airlines and hotels, and American Airlines. China is believed to be linked to these recent attacks, but the country denies involvement.

Sabre confirmed that its networks were recently breached, but could not disclose what information was taken. Sabre processes travel information for more than one billion travelers annually. American Airlines said that it is investigating if the hackers entered its networks through the attack on Sabre. Sabre was a subsidiary of American before it was spun off in 2000, and both companies utilize some shared network infrastructure.

Other recent victims linked to the group of hackers who took records of 22 million government contractors and employees include health insurer Anthem and United Airlines.

The hacks

"American was provided with Internet Protocol addresses used by the OPM hackers, which matched activity found in the carrier's computer logs," Bloomberg reported based on its inside source, but American Airlines is denying that its network was compromised.

"Based on our deep and extensive investigations with the help of outside cybersecurity experts, American has found no evidence that our systems or network have experienced a breach like those at OPM or Anthem," American spokesman Casey Norton said in a statement.

Sabre says that its investigation is ongoing.

Similar virtual DNA

Although the hacking techniques may have changed, the internet logs indicate that the American hack is related to the OPM hack.

"Enough of the indicators lined up in the American and Sabre breaches to lead to the conclusion that the attacks were the work of the same group that struck OPM, Anthem and United, the people familiar with those incidents said," reported Bloomberg.

If true, the China-linked hackers have access to social security numbers, travel plans, logistics and location, medical records and other information.

US government officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and cybersecurity experts believe that China is the leading suspect in these strings of hacks. China maintains that it is not related to the hacks, stating that any accusations are "unfounded."

Chinese officials also accused the US of sending spies to target its networks. The US has not offered a statement on China's claims. If these allegations are true, the two nations may be engaged in a cyberwar

Following the high profile hack of Sony Pictures in November 2014, President Obama signed an executive order in April to issue sanctions against foreign hackers.

"And this means, in addition to our existing tools, we need a capability to deter and impose costs on those responsible for significant harmful cyber activity where it really hurts – at their bottom line," said Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, of the executive order.