Customers of airlines including Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and United have been affected by a breach which has seen aviation services conglomerate SITA warn of a “data security incident involving certain passenger data”.

The breach was confirmed by SITA on February 24 with the public notified on March 4.

At first reports claimed the breach had affected Star Alliance members, however travel website Skift reported the breach affected the rival One World group as well.

Qantas, a member of the One World network, does not appear affected with a spokesperson telling Information Age "the Qantas Group does not use SITA passenger service systems, however it has partnerships with many airlines that do through our oneworld membership. As a result, we are aware of this matter and are investigating the impact, if any, to Qantas.

“Qantas Frequent Flyer uses security protocols to protect our members' accounts, including multi factor authentication, to minimise the impact, if their travel data is accessed or lost by third parties."

Frequent fliers of Star Alliance airlines were contacted this week advising of the hack with Air New Zealand telling members of its Airpoints program the compromised data was limited to their “names, tier status and membership numbers.”

“This data breach does not include any members passwords, credit card information or other personal consumer data,” the Air New Zealand note continued.

Tech Crunch reports Singapore Airlines and United sent similar notifications to frequent fliers with the US carrier advising customers change passwords as a precaution.

SITA, founded in 1949 by a group of European airlines to share resources, provides a range of aviation services including IT and communications platforms, ground support, check-in equipment, and baggage management.

The breach is the latest in a wave of data security failures that saw cyber crime explode last year with one attack on network services provider Solarwinds affecting over 18,000 government and private sector organisations.

Yesterday, the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the assistant Minister for Defence, Andrew Hastie, warned a large number of local organisations were vulnerable to security weaknesses in Microsoft’s Exchange Server platforms.

In a statement on its website, SITA confirmed the breach saying “we recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about security threats, and, at the same time, cyber-criminals have become more sophisticated and active. This was a highly sophisticated attack.

“SITA acted swiftly and initiated targeted containment measures. The matter remains under continued investigation by SITA’s Security Incident Response Team with the support of leading external experts in cyber-security.”