Hidden data on your airline boarding pass… what could hackers really find on your discarded document

Data on a discarded, or social media-posted, boarding pass could lead to valuable personal information falling into the hands of fraudsters, identity thieves and even stalkers, according to one expert.

Does it really have secret data that can be used by hackers?

Does it really have secret data that can be used by hackers?

The report carried on CBS News suggests travellers should ensure the document is shredded once used – and never posted as a ‘boast’ on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

In a post published on his blog, security expert Brian Krebs describes how one of his readers took a screenshot of a boarding pass from a friend’s Facebook page, and used a free barcode reader to upload the file and reveal several pieces of private information.

What information did the boarding pass reveal?

Using the barcode screenshot, the online reader was able to reveal the traveller’s name, frequent flyer number and a ‘record locater’ which allowed the person to visit the airline’s website and find a full record of flights that were booked for the future.

What about personal information?

The investigator claimed that he was also able to reveal the personal contact details of the traveller.

What is the danger of having this information revealed?

With this data in hand, it could be possible for the holder to cancel a flight or change seats. The information could also be used to find someone’s home address.

Does this really work on all boarding passes?

That’s debatable. The blog was written about a boarding pass for a German Airline, but when we uploaded a current boarding pass barcode, all we got was the traveller’s name, flight number and seat numbers – all of which can be found printed on the boarding card.

However, there were other ‘codes’ that we could not identify, so perhaps this could be of use to a ‘skilled’ hacker. 

How can I keep my boarding pass data safe?

The best way to keep data from prying eyes is to use an electronic boarding pass – and avoid printing it out just in case the battery runs out. Secondly, never give into to temptation when it comes to posting on social media – losing your data certainly isn’t worth the short-term pleasure of winding-up your stay-at-home colleagues.

Try it for yourself… see what your boarding pass tells you

Have you got a boarding pass that you’ve printed out? Or perhaps an old one from a previous trip? Simply take a photo of it on your phone, then upload the snap to this online barcode reader and see what it says. Let us know what you find.

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