Personal data exposed in McDonald’s data breach

The exterior of a McDonald's restaurant in Taiwan
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hackers have stolen data from systems managed by McDonald's in the US, South Korea and Taiwan, with the personal information of customers and employees compromised in the cyber attack.

Writing to US employees, McDonald's said the breach exposed business contact information for some workers, as well as logistical information about restaurants such as seating capacity and the square footage of play areas.

This is according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), with the global fast-food chain also confirming it had hired external consultants to investigate unauthorised activity on an internal security platform.

While no customer information was compromised in the US, hackers stole the emails, phone numbers, and addresses for delivery customers in South Korea and Taiwan. In Taiwan, hackers also seized employee information including names and contact details.

McDonald's said the number of files exposed was small, although didn't disclose how many have been directly affected. The hackers didn't take any payment information in the breach.

The investigation is still ongoing, with divisions in South Africa and Russia also being alerted to the possibility, so far unconfirmed, that hackers had accessed data on their systems before their presence was cut off.

The chain said that operations weren't disrupted and that the cyber attack didn't involve ransomware.


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"Details about the breach are sparse at the moment, but it's commendable that the security team at McDonalds was able to detect anomalous activity and investigation was carried out and discovered the breach," said security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, Javvad Malik.

"With many criminals spending weeks, if not months within organisations to exfiltrate data, understand the network, and often deploy ransomware; being able to detect and respond to this intrusion before it became a much larger incident highlights the value in having a robust layered security capability."

For Nikos Mantas, incident response expert at Obrela Security Industries, this is just the latest big name to be hit by cyber criminals, which should serve as a reminder that businesses need to bolster their defences.

"Not a week goes by recently without another major organisation falling victim to cyber attack," he said. "The rise in attacks indicates the need for organisations to practice cyber resilience and take steps to mitigate the risks cyber attacks pose, before they actually happen."

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.