SpiceJet, one of India’s largest privately owned airlines, has acknowledged a data breach involving the details of over a million of its passengers.
The security researcher, who described their actions as “ethical hacking” but whom we are not naming as they likely ran afoul of U.S. computer hacking laws, gained access to one of SpiceJet’s systems by brute-forcing the system’s easily-guessable password. An unencrypted database backup file on that system contained private information of more than 1.2 million passengers of the budget-carrier last month, TechCrunch has learned.
Each record included details such as name of the passenger, their phone number, email address, and their date of birth, the researcher told TechCrunch. Some of these passengers were state officials, they said.
The database included a rolling month’s worth of flight information and details of each commuter, they said, adding that they believe that the database was easily accessible for anyone who knew where to look.
The researcher alerted SpiceJet about the database, but said they never received a meaningful response. TechCrunch reviewed a sample of the passenger list as well as the researcher’s email correspondence with SpiceJet representatives. The researcher later alerted CERT-In, a government-run agency in India that handles cybersecurity threats in the nation. The agency confirmed the security lapse, and alerted SpiceJet, which has since taken the necessary measures to protect the database.
A SpiceJet spokesperson in India acknowledged the security lapse, but declined to elaborate.
In a statement, the airline shared the following boilerplate, “at SpiceJet, safety and security of our fliers’ data is sacrosanct. Our systems are fully capable and always up to date to secure the fliers’ data which is a continuous process. We undertake every possible measure to safeguard and protect this data and ensure that the privacy is maintained at the highest and safest level.”
SpiceJet commands roughly 13% of the market share in India, which is the fastest growing aviation market globally. The airline flies over 600 planes each day, including several that connect India to foreign regions such as Dubai and Hong Kong.
About 12 million people in India fly each month.
Updated at 7.23 AM PT: The headline has been updated to clarify that SpiceJet acknowledged the breach, but declined to confirm CERT-In’s findings.