Customs says hack exposed traveler, license plate images

In this March 29, 2019, file photo, vehicles line up to enter the U.S. from Mexico at a border crossing in El Paso, Texas. (AP)
Updated 11 June 2019
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Customs says hack exposed traveler, license plate images

  • A congressional staffer whose office was notified by the agency said the breach affected fewer than 100,000 people

WASHINGTON: US Customs and Border Protection said Monday that photos of travelers and license plates collected at the nation’s borders have been exposed in a malicious cyberattack.
The federal agency did not name the subcontractor whose computer network was hacked, but the announcement followed news that a Tennessee-based company that bills itself as the sole provider of stationary license plate readers at US borders had been compromised.
The UK computer security website The Register, which said the hacker responsible alerted it to the breach in late May, identified the company as Perceptics.
A spokesman for the company did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.
A congressional staffer whose office was notified by the agency said the breach affected fewer than 100,000 people. The staffer was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and spoke on condition that the staffer not be further identified.
CBP said none of the data had surfaced on the Internet or Dark Web. The Register said the hacker provided it with a list of files exfiltrated from the Perceptics corporate network and said a company spokesperson had confirmed the hack.
“Initial information indicates that the subcontractor violated mandatory security and privacy protocols outlined in their contract,” the agency said in a statement.
CBP said it learned of the data breach May 31. It said the subcontractor had transferred copies of the images to its company network in violation of government policies and without the agency’s authorization.
Perceptics, of Farragut, Tennessee, bills itself as the sole provider of license-plate readers “for passenger vehicle primary inspection lanes at all land border ports of entry in the United States, Canada and at the most critical lanes in Mexico.”
It says it has secured “thousands of border checkpoints” and says its products automate over 200 hundred million vehicle inspections annually.
Perceptic technology is also used in electronic toll collection and roadway monitoring.
Civil liberties groups including the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have expressed alarm at the general lack of regulation of license plate-reading cameras and databases, saying the technology has great potential to be abused for surveillance and location-tracking.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 16 June 2019
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
cl/sst