As if air travelers don’t have enough things to keep track of when navigating an airport terminal, a recent report now suggests you need to be aware of potential hackers trying to access your flight reservations and other private information from your seemingly innocuous luggage tag.
The six-digit identification number located on your boarding pass, as well as on the accompanying luggage tag of your checked bags, is all a hacker needs to access all kinds of personal information — your email address, your phone number, your address — as well as your flight itinerary and frequent flier account.
This has become such a target-rich code for hackers because the airlines’ global reservation systems are antiquated and vulnerable. Put in place in the 1960s, their software coding does not account for personal privacy laws that have been instituted since that time.
Since the onus is on the traveler to be alert and protected, here are a few suggestions to stop would-be hackers:
- Don’t post your boarding pass on social media. Hackers know our tendency to unwittingly overshare, so all they have to do is Google “boarding pass images” to reap a harvest.
- Consider only using a virtual boarding pass that comes to your email and uses a scannable image to get you through TSA. If you aren’t carrying a physical record that can be misplaced, lost, or captured by a hacker with a cell phone who takes a picture of what you’re carrying in your hand for anyone to see, your personal data is safer.
- Create complex passwords for your data so that if someone gets your information, they don’t have easy access. There are numerous apps available that create random, unique, strong passwords that are difficult to hack. The days of using one password for everything are over.
- Take your boarding pass when you exit the plane. Don’t stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Doing so leaves that valuable code accessible to anyone who happens to find it.
Travel safety involves more than using a money belt or backing up valuable data before you leave. It also means taking steps to avoid getting hacked, even on something as simple as a boarding pass.
What are some extra security steps you take to protect yourself? Do you have any special tricks or even gadgets that you like to use, such as an RFID-blocking wallet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.
Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)