For many, travel has always seemed like a luxury, but as of late it’s become one of the primary markers of fab, fly adulthood due majorly in part to social media. With the proliferation of travel sites with huge social footprints (ie Travelnoire, Parlour, Fathom, Nomadness, etc.), people are posting and tagging their getaway photos to be part of a larger community and frankly, to show off a bit. We see the best of folks’ lives on “the ‘Gram,” with people curating their most beautiful eats, outfits and vacations through a carefully filtered (literally) lens. One of the most ubiquitous social media photos is the passport/boarding pass pic. I’ve done it, you’ve probably done it and chances are you’ve seen one of your Facebook friends or Instagram follows doing it too. It says “hey, look at me! I’m going somewhere! First Class! Priority Boarding! International, baby!”
Stop right there. Before you post another pic of your boarding pass take this into account: You may be sharing personally identifying information (PII) that could compromise your safety and security. According to investigative cybercrime journalist Brian Krebs, “two-dimensional barcodes and QR codes can hold a great deal of information, and the codes printed on airline boarding passes may allow someone to discover more about you, your future travel plans, and your frequent flyer account.” Here’s how.
The ability to take screenshots of images online means that anyone can grab what you share, enlarge it, and potentially glean information from what they see. With the right software, an enterprising busybody could decode the data they find within your boarding pass barcode/QR code. So, what could be discovered? In one instance where a Lufthansa/Star Alliance barcode was examined, the following information was viewable or actionable:
- Frequent flyer number
- Record Locator
- Account information
- Current and future flight details
- Name and number of anyone who booked the flight
- Ability to change seats and passengers
- Ability to cancel flights
- Ability to reset account pin number
With the increased attention being paid to cybersecurity amidst what seems like daily breaches of individuals’ data and companies’ systems, you may want to think twice before posting such documents. You wouldn’t post the photo page of your passport or a shot of your social security card, right? RIGHT? So maybe opt for a different, less info-sensitive pic the next time you want to show the world where you’re headed.
Curious about what information might be lurking in your boarding pass code? Snap a pic and check it with this reader.