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15/11/2021 | Hacker behind attack on popular booking site has ties to US intelligence, paper claims

Joseph Fitsanakis

A HACKER WHO TARGETED a major Dutch-based reservations website has ties to intelligence agencies in the United States, according to a new report. The claim was made on Wednesday by three Dutch investigative journalists, Merry Rengers, Stijn Bronzwaer and Joris Kooiman.

 

In a lengthy report published in NRC Handelsblad, Holland’s newspaper of record, the three journalists allege that the attack occurred in 2016. Its target was Booking.com, a popular flight and hotel reservations website, which is jointly owned by Dutch and American venture firms.

The authors argue that the interest Booking.com poses for security services is “no surprise”. The website’s data includes valuable information about “who is  staying where and when, where diplomats are, who is traveling to suspicious countries or regions, where top executives book an outing with their secretary —all valuable information for [the world’s intelligence] services”.

According to the report, the hacker was able to penetrate an insufficiently secured server belonging to Booking.com, and gain access to the accounts of customers, by stealing their personal identification numbers, or PINs. Accordingly, the hacker stole “details of hotel [and flight] reservations” of thousands of Booking.com customers in the Middle East. The report claims that targeted customers included Middle East-based foreign diplomats, government officials and other “persons of interest” to American intelligence.’’

After detecting the breach, Booking.com allegedly conducted an internal probe, which verified that the hacker —nicknamed “Andrew”— had “connections to United States spy agencies”, according to the report. The company then sought the assistance of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). At the same time, however, Booking.com consulted with a British-based law firm, which advised it that it was not obligated to make news of the hacker attack public. It therefore chose not to publicize the incident, according to the NRC article.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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