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Pentagon data breach exposed travel data for 30,000 individuals

The Department of Defense said a Pentagon data breach exposed travel records for approximately 30,000 military and civilian personnel, but the investigation is still in progress.

A Pentagon data breach exposed travel records for approximately 30,000 civilian and military personnel. And experts said this information could be dangerous for victims if it's combined with data from previous government breaches.

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced the Pentagon data breach, but details were scarce. A spokesperson for the Pentagon said travel records -- including personal information and credit card data -- for about 30,000 individuals were involved, but that number may not be final. The incident was discovered on Oct. 4, but the DOD could not say when the breach occurred.

Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed the breach to the Associated Press, which first reported the incident. He described the attack as "a breach of a single commercial vendor that provided service to a very small percentage of the total population."

Buccino said the Pentagon data breach required the agency to disclose to Congress, but he added that the investigation is still in progress.

Michael Magrath, director of global regulations and standards at OneSpan, based in Chicago, said it was likely that many of the individuals affected by the Pentagon data breach may have also "been victimized in other large- and small-scale breaches over the past few years, including 2015's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach that affected 21.5 million federal employees and contractors."

"The treasure-trove of personally identifiable data on the dark web just continues to grow, enabling fraudsters to steal identities or create new, synthetic identities using a combination of real and made-up information, or entirely fictitious information," Magrath wrote via email. "For example, the personal and credit card information obtained in the DOD breach could be cross-referenced with data obtained from the OPM breach and other widely publicized private-sector breaches."

Pravin Kothari, CEO at cloud security vendor CipherCloud, based in San Jose, Calif., agreed the Pentagon data breach could potentially be "part of a much larger campaign by several well-known nation states to build out a comprehensive database on our civilian and military population, our businesses and all of their activity from one end of the supply chain to the other."

"They are possibly collecting databases and information and building cross-indexes to utilize all of this data," Kothari wrote via email. "This is in addition to all of the other nefarious activities they attempt when breaching our online information technology assets."

"This activity won't stop. In fact, left unchecked it will get worse. Increasing cybersecurity risk necessitates that we stop talking and start deploying known best practices that can afford some protection," Kothari continued. "These include end-to-end encryption of data -- both in the cloud and on premises -- the use of two-factor authentication, network segmentation and more."

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