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GE Says Some Employees Hit by Data Breach at Canon

General Electric (GE) revealed last week that the personal information of some employees may have been compromised as a result of a data breach suffered by Canon Business Process Services.

In a data breach notification sent to affected individuals and submitted to the California Attorney General, GE said an unauthorized party gained access to a Canon email account containing documents belonging to some of its employees.

The breach occurred between February 3 and 14 and it resulted in the exposure of information belonging to current and former GE employees and beneficiaries entitled to benefits. The hacked email account contained birth, marriage and death certificates, direct deposit forms, passports, driver’s licenses, tax forms, medical child support orders, and forms related to benefits.

The exposed information included names, addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers, dates of birth, and passport numbers.

Canon Business Process Services provides business optimization services and GE says it uses these services to process employee documents. The documents exposed in this data breach were uploaded by or for GE employees and beneficiaries “in connection with Canon’s workflow routing service.” GE says its own systems are not affected by the incident.

Canon has not shared any information about the breach and it’s unclear if GE is the only affected customer. SecurityWeek has reached out to Canon for more information, but the company has yet to respond.

“We understand that Canon took steps to secure its systems and determine the nature of the issue. Canon also retained a data security expert to conduct a forensic investigation,” GE said.

GE was notified about the incident on February 28 and it’s trying to learn how the breach occurred so it can implement measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

“It seems that no matter how much training and awareness is provided, the human element remains the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. The problem is not entirely the employees’ faults, as hackers and attackers are improving their tactics to trick employees into clicking on links infected with malware. A determined attacker may go as far as designing an email to look authentic and even read as if clicking on the link is the right thing to do,” Jonathan Deveaux, head of enterprise data protection at comforte AG, told SecurityWeek.

“Unfortunately, in this case, hackers obtained the credentials for a corporate email. This means that they had access to everything that the employee did. Instances like this are easily avoided through good account hygiene, however they are extremely difficult to mitigate once it has occurred,” Deveaux added.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.