Editor’s note: October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and each week Blue Sky will be featuring a story about cybersecurity and related issues to highlight the importance of digital safety in airports and beyond.
You’ve been planning your tropical getaway for months. Today’s the day! You arrive at the airport, check your luggage and print your boarding pass. You snap a quick photo of the pass and upload it to Instagram with the hashtags #vacay and #boardingpass to let everyone in your network know you’re on your way to paradise.
But consider this: the thrill of making your friends and frenemies #jelly isn’t worth the risk.
You know to keep your Social Security number, credit card information, driver license and passport off of social media. But did you know the same holds true for your boarding pass?
In fact, a seemingly innocuous picture of your boarding pass online could spell a host of problems if it falls into the wrong hands.
According to security blogger and former Washington Post journalist Brian Krebs, the bar code on your boarding pass contains a wealth of information of which you might not even be aware.
In addition to the basic information, like name and seat number, the bar code can contain your entire trip itinerary, frequent flier number, and future flights and travel plans. Once the picture of the code is available, it is relatively easy to break that code by uploading the code to websites like this one to find that information.
A nefarious person armed with this information could log in to your account, change your travel plans or cancel them altogether.
The same holds true if you accidentally discard your boarding pass on the plane in the seat back in front of you or drop it in the airport terminal between flights. That is why most experts suggest holding on to your used pass and then shredding it when you have a chance.
Conde Nast Travel notes that while it is unlikely someone would make the effort to mess with your travel plans, it makes much more sense to keep your information as safe as possible – particularly in this age of identity theft and increased cybersecurity concerns.
You might also want to avoid posting photos of sports or concert tickets – essentially anything with a bar code on it – to social media.
While it might make your friends jealous for a minute, the potential headaches could last for years.