While many travellers have made the switch to digital boarding passes, even more still rely on their printed versions to get them through the airport.
While a printed boarding pass may seem harmless, security experts are now warning travellers against using the traditional paper pass.
Target for fraud
A report from Forbes outlined how a printed boarding pass can be a gateway for fraudsters to target travellers.
Discarding the piece of paper by leaving it on the plane, chucking it in the bin or leaving it somewhere someone could get their hands on it is described in the report as “a gift to hackers”.
Charles Henderson, Global Managing Partner and Head of X-Force Red at IBM Security, told Forbes: “If you look at a boarding pass through the eyes of a scam artist, it’s really the laundry list of things you need to take over a frequent flyer account.”
Caleb Barlow, president and CEo of CynergisTek, a cybersecurity consulting firm, adds to this by saying: “All you need is your name, your booking reference number and your frequent flyer number. All three of those things are on the boarding pass.”
Barlow states that there may be come basic password reset questions, but he says: “I might be able to get the answer to those just by looking on the web. And now I’ve got your frequent flyer account.”
Fraudsters attack the travel industry
“When you look at cybercrime, the travel industry is now the second most attacked industry, right behind financial services,” says Barlow.
This is in part due to the fact that hackers are recognising the value of loyalty points. In some cases, hackers are able to transfer the points to themselves or use them to buy themselves flights.
In other cases, points are stolen and then re-sold on the dark web.
Talking to Forbes, Barlow explains how dealing with stolen points isn’t very difficult.
Barlow said: “One, it’s relatively easy to figure out how to get into your frequent flyer account. Two, you’re probably not watching your miles or points like you would be your bank account.
“And three, it’s relatively easy to use your miles or points in ways that may be very difficult to trace. It’s easy to turn points into gift cards or into travel and lots of other things that can be used immediately or sold.”
How to protect yourself
If you want to keep yourself safe, using a digital boarding pass is the best way to go. You can access your digital boarding pass on the airline’s app on your mobile phone.
If you’d rather stick to the paper version, make sure you’re discarding of it in a responsible way - ideally, hold on to it until you get home where you can tear it up or use a shredder.
You should also steer clear of trends that see people taking pictures of their boarding passes and uploading them to social media. At the time of writing, the hashtag #boardingpass on social media platform Instagram has over 116k posts.
This article originally appeared on our sister site Edinburgh Evening News