Raise your hand if you’ve done this: You’ve finished the first leg of your journey and don’t want to mix up your used boarding pass with the one for your connecting flight so you look for the nearest spot to discard it. Perhaps that spot is between pages 26 and 27 of the airline magazine in your seat back pocket. Perhaps that spot is in the flight attendant’s open garbage bag on his or her last trip through the cabin before landing. Perhaps you have the patience to hold on to it until you’ve landed and it makes it off the plane…but ends up in the first garbage can you pass once leaving the gate. If your hand is in the air, you’re not alone. Everybody does it.
Maybe next time this scenario comes up, you should give it some extra thought. According to security blogger Brian Krebs, there might be more personally identifiable information than it seems on those documents. Information like your name, frequent flyer number, record locator number and more can be coded into the barcodes that are scanned at the gate. When scanned and decoded, which can be easily accomplished, someone could use that information to access your existing flight as well as any future flights tied to your frequent flyer number. Krebs even takes us through a scenario where a nefarious individual could very simply use information found on social networking sites combined with the information on the boarding pass to successfully bypass and reset your airline account. Every airline includes different information within the barcodes on boarding passes. There are websites that allow you to scan them yourself to see exactly what is accessible. I wouldn’t worry too much about that, but here are some tips that will help you keep your personal information secure:
- Keep your boarding passes in a safe and secure spot throughout your journey and shred them when you return home from your trip.
- Use mobile boarding passes whenever possible. They’re convenient and far less likely to be frivolously discarded – unless you really don’t like your smartphone.
- Check out our Ultimate Guide to Protecting your Personal and Financial Data for more tips on how to keep your personal information secure while on business travel.
If you haven’t already lowered your hand, please go ahead and do so. People are starting to stare.