December 20, 2017 5:00 pm
Updated: December 21, 2017 11:53 am

Airline boarding pass barcodes can pose security risk to passengers: expert

WATCH: Regardless of where you are going, your boarding pass is key to getting you there. The information it contains lingers long after the flight. Global's Brittany Greenslade reports.


Whether it’s a flight home or a tropical beach vacation, your boarding pass is your ticket to the world.

With thousands being printed every day, many end up in the pocket of an airline seat or in the trash can.

“I generally put it in the recycling can,” one traveller at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport said Wednesday.

“I throw it out. It’s in my hip pocket now and will go in the garbage in moments,” said another.

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But what many passengers don’t realize is how a seemingly harmless boarding pass actually reveals a lot more about you than you can see.

“I got more information off this than I would off your passport,” InterFusion Media security and technology expert David Horton said. “This is scary stuff.”

All it takes is a QR code reading app on your phone. Several are easily downloadable online.

“A scanner comes up, it’s green (which) means it’s ready to go,” Horton said. “This is how fast it is.”

The data stored within the barcode at the bottom of your airline boarding pass can hold personal information that could be valuable to hackers, identity thieves or even stalkers.

Aside from gaining access to personal data and frequent flyer numbers, thieves can also easily access your entire airline account. The hacker can find your phone numbers and future flights booked under your frequent flyer number.

But hackers who have a more extensive knowledge of systems can also go one step further and steal your identity.

“If I had an entire day focused on an individual, what could be done with that info,” Horton said. “With one person in 45 minutes I can assume your identity.”

While that takes a bit more work, it can be done and experts said people need to be aware and protect themselves.

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“Take your boarding pass, don’t put it in the family album. Shred it,” Horton said. “Confidential information… if you aren’t keeping it for a very good reason, shred it.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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