Hackers were able to illegally access employee records on a server used by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), forcing the agency to contact each individual possibly affected from the security breach, the FAA said in a statement.
"The FAA is moving quickly to prevent any similar incidents and has identified immediate steps as well as longer-term measures to further protect personal information," the FAA said in a statement. "The agency is also providing a toll-free number and information on the employee web site for those who believe they may be affected by the breach."
It's unknown when the data breach took place and when the FAA first learned of it, but up to 45,000 people may have had their personal information compromised. Although there have been a number of data breaches lately, there is higher scrutiny if a government agency is successfully accessed by hackers.
Two of the 48 files accessed by hackers contained personal information for employees and retirees, though the server was not connected to the operation of the air traffic control system or other FAA operation systems.
Law enforcement authorities are now investigating the data theft, with full cooperation from the FAA.
Security and data theft will be two hot topics in 2009, as we're only in February and there have been several high-profile intrusions over the past few weeks. Security maker Kaspersky had an intrusion on its web site, along with Kaiser Permanente, RBS WorldPay, and Heartland Payment Systems suffering from large data breaches.