Cathay Pacific execs grilled over data breach ‘crisis’

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar and CEO Rupert Hogg attend a panel hearing at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to answer questions about the recent data breach that affected millions. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Cathay Pacific execs grilled over data breach ‘crisis’

  • Cathay said late last month that about 9.4 million passengers’ personal data had been accessed without authorization
  • It said an airline restructuring had been completed and it planned to hire 1,800 staff this year

HONG KONG: Cathay Pacific Airways said on Wednesday it is working with 27 regulators in 15 jurisdictions to investigate a data breach that affected millions of passengers, as Hong Kong lawmakers grilled executives over how it handled the incident.
The executives did not answer repeated questions about whether the airline would compensate all affected customers or if it might face a hefty fine under new European Union privacy regulations, saying it was “too early” to comment.
Cathay has come under mounting criticism after it said late last month that about 9.4 million passengers’ personal data had been accessed without authorization, seven months after it became aware of the breach.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the breach or what the information might be used for, but Cathay said there was no evidence so far that personal information had been misused.
“The incident is a crisis,” company Chairman John Slosar told the committee. “It is the most serious one the airline has faced.”
Slosar again apologized for failing to protect customers’ data and said he regretted that the company could not investigate the attack more quickly.
Shares of Cathay, which slid to a nine-year low after news of the data leak last month, were up more than 4 percent on Wednesday, beating a flat broader market.
Cathay said in a document submitted to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council that it first detected suspicious activity on its network in March and that the attack continued in the following months and expanded in scope.
The airline then took until mid-August to conclude which passenger data had been accessed, according to the document, and it completed the identification of the personal data that pertained to each individual passenger on Oct. 24.
Slosar said that in future Cathay would instantly disclose any similar issues to the authorities.
The company denied the data breach was a result of layoffs at its IT department last year.
Cathay said an airline restructuring had been completed and it planned to hire 1,800 staff this year.
It also said it has spent over HK$1 billion ($127.7 million) on IT infrastructure and security over the past three years.


To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

Updated 17 February 2019
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To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

  • Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups
  • Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector

BAGHDAD: Stuck between an endless waitlist for a government job and a frail private sector, Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups.
The first murmurs of this creative spirit were felt in 2013, but the Daesh group’s sweep across a third of the country the following year put many projects on hold.
Now, with Daesh defeated, co-working spaces and incubators are flourishing in a country whose unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent but whose public sector is too bloated to hire.
Many self-starters begin their journey at an aptly named glass building in central Baghdad: The Station.
There, they sip on coffee, peruse floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for ideas and grab a seat at clusters of desks where other stylish Iraqis click away at their laptops.
“We’re trying to create a new generation with a different state of mind,” said executive director Haidar Hamzoz.
“We want to tell youth that they can start their own project, achieve their dreams and not just be happy in a government job they didn’t even want,” he said.
Youth make up around 60 percent of Iraq’s nearly 40 million people.
After graduating from university, many spend years waiting to be appointed to a job in the government, Iraq’s biggest employer.
Four out of five jobs created in Iraq in recent years are in the public sector, according to the World Bank.
And in its 2019 budget, the government proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for its workers — a 15 percent jump from 2018 and more than half the total budget.
But with graduates entering the workforce faster than jobs are created, many still wait indefinitely for work.
Among youth, 17 percent of men and a whopping 27 percent of women are unemployed, the World Bank says.
When Daesh declared Mosul its seat of power in Iraq back in 2014, resident Saleh Mahmud was forced to shutter the city’s incubator for would-be entrepreneurs.
With Mosul now cautiously rebuilding after the militants were ousted in 2017, Mahmud is back in business.
“Around 600-700 youth have already passed by Mosul Space” to attend a seminar or seek out resources as they start their own ventures, said the 23-year-old.
He was inspired after watching fellow Mosul University graduates hopelessly “try to hunt down a connection to get a job in the public sphere.”
“A university education isn’t something that gets you a fulfilling job,” he said.
Another start-up, Dakkakena, is capitalizing on Mosul’s rebuilding spirit, too.
The online shopping service delivers a lorry-full of home goods every day to at least a dozen families refurnishing after the war.
“On the web, we can sell things for cheaper than stores because we have fewer costs, like no showrooms,” said founder Yussef Al-Noaime, 27.
Noaime fled Daesh to the Netherlands, where he was introduced to e-commerce. When he returned home, the computer engineer partnered with another local to found their venture.
A similar service, Miswag, was set-up in the capital Baghdad in 2014 and last year reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
On an autumn day, some 70 young Iraqi innovators converged for a three-day workshop in Baghdad on founding start-ups.
They flitted among round tables planning projects, their Arabic conversations sprinkled with English terms.
“What we’re doing is showing youth what entrepreneurship is — not necessarily so they succeed, but so they at least try,” said organizer Ibrahim Al-Zarari.
He said attendees should understand two things: first, that the public sector is saturated. And second, that oil isn’t the only resource on which Iraq — OPEC’s second-largest producer — should capitalize.
More than 65 percent of Iraq’s GDP and nearly 90 percent of state revenues hail from the oil sector. Many youths turn to it for work, but it only employs one percent of the workforce.
Widespread corruption and bureaucracy also weaken Iraq’s appeal for private investors. The World Bank ranks it 168th out of 190 for states with a good business environment.
Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector.
And Iraq’s stuttering banking industry appears too cautious to dive in, said Tamara Raad, 26, who researches start-ups.
“The banks have a role to play. They must make loans without interest and help young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Banks or no banks, Mahmud in Mosul is already planning how he’ll grow his business in 2019.
“We will open a new, larger space for new gatherings,” he said excitedly, to bring together returning designers, developers and other inventors.