(Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said it would step up scrutiny of online security and privacy issues following recent security breaches involving Apple Inc’s iPad and Google Inc’s collection of private data by its Street View cars.
The FCC announcement on Friday comes one day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had opened a probe into a security breach of the iPad that exposed personal information of AT&T Inc customers, including several high-ranking government officials.
The breach, first reported by the website Gawker, occurred when a group calling itself Goatse Security hacked into AT&T’s iPad subscriber data, obtaining a list of email addresses that also included celebrities, chief executives and politicians.
In a blog posting, Joel Gurin, chief of the FCC’s consumer and governmental affairs bureau, said the incident appeared to be a classic security breach that has happened to many companies.
"Our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is now addressing cybersecurity as a high priority," Gurin said.
The communications regulatory agency will seek to ensure that broadband networks are safe and secure, he said. "We’re committed to working with all stakeholders to prevent problems like this in the future," he said.
AT&T, which has exclusive U.S. rights to carry the iPad and the popular iPhone, has acknowledged the security breach but said it has corrected the flaw and that only email addresses were exposed to hackers who identified a security weakness.
The iPad breach is just the latest incident involving privacy concerns at a high-profile company.
In May, Google said its fleet of cars responsible for photographing streets around the world had for several years accidentally collected personal information sent by consumers over wireless networks.
"Google’s behavior also raises important concerns," Gurin said in the blog post. "Whether intentional or not, collecting information sent over WiFi networks clearly infringes on consumer privacy."
He said the Google incident is a reminder that "open" WiFi networks — those that are not encrypted — are vulnerable to cyber snooping. He urged consumers to read a wireless safety guide issued by the Federal Trade Commission.
The guide can be found here. http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/wireless-security.aspx
(Reporting by John Poirier; editing by John Wallace)