Airline boarding pass photos: Security risk over posting boarding passes online

Chances are, you've already done it. You're at the airport, checked in and excited to be going on your plane journey to a new destination. So you snap a photo of your boarding pass, with your flight number and destination listed, and share it with your friends and followers on social media.

If you're really lucky, you might be bragging about your seat number if it's particularly low. 1A means you're in the best seat in the plane, in either first or business class, but generally speaking a low number on your boarding pass is worth bragging about. 

But you should think twice before posting that photo online, a security expert warns.

Security expert Brian Krebs revealed on his cyber-security blog last week that your boarding pass contains far more information about you than you might think, and posting a photo of it online can make this data available for nefarious purposes.

Krebs says that the bar code or QR code contained on a boarding pass can contain information about you, including your future travel plans or your frequent flyer details. 

Krebs cites a reader, Cory, who contacted his website after discovering how easy it was to access someone's information from a boarding pass. Cory used an online barcode reader to read the code on a friend's boarding pass which had been posted to Facebook.

Within a few minutes Cory had enough details to access his friend's frequent flyer account. Through this, he could see all future flights his friend had booked and could actually make changes such as cancelling flights or changing seat allocations, as well as accessing his friend's phone number and other details.

The availability of such data could potentially lead to even bigger problems, such as identity theft. 

Even throwing your boarding pass in the bin is not without risk. In 2006, a writer for The Guardian managed to find all sorts of details about a passenger from his discarded boarding pass stub.

The International Air Transport Association, which formulates policy and practices for most of the world's major airlines, began a project to promote its members adopting bar coded boarding passes in 2005. More than 90 per cent of its 250 members now use bar codes on their boarding passes.

The association said that the introduction of bar coded boarding passes has saved the industry up to $2 billion per year, as the passes "don't need to be printed on expensive paper stock and facilitate off-airport check-in". 

See also: The 25 biggest mistakes travellers make (and how to avoid them)
See also: Is handing over your passport in a hotel a safe thing to do?

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