E-Ticketing Flaw Exposes Airline Passenger Data to Hackers

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E-Ticketing Flaw Exposes Airline Passenger Data to Hackers

The e-ticketing programs of eight airways, together with Southwest Airlines and Dutch service KLM, have a vulnerability that may expose passengers’ personally identifiable data (PII), cellular safety vendor Wandera reported Wednesday.

They use unencrypted hyperlinks that hackers can intercept simply. The hackers then can view and, in some instances, even change the sufferer’s flight reserving particulars, or print their boarding passes.

Air France, Vueling, Jetstar, Thomas Cook, Transavia and Air Europa even have this drawback, in accordance to Wandera.

“Wandera investigated the e-ticketing systems in use by over 40 global airlines,” stated Michael Covington, the corporate’s VP of product.

“Only those organizations that had adequate time to respond to our responsible disclosure are included in the list of affected airlines at this time,” he instructed TechNewsWorld.

Wandera provides distributors up to 4 weeks to present a patch or related repair earlier than publicly disclosing a vulnerability.

The firm has been speaking with “some of the affected airlines” however has not been ready to confirm that any fixes have been applied, Covington stated.

Discovering the Flaw

Wandera recognized the vulnerability in early December, after studying {that a} buyer who accessed the e-ticketing system of one of many eight airways had been despatched travel-related passenger particulars with out encryption.

It then checked out whether or not different airline e-ticketing programs had been equally susceptible.

Wandera notified the airways affected because it was documenting the vulnerability.

It additionally shared its findings with authorities companies chargeable for airport safety.

Vulnerability Details

Unencrypted check-in hyperlinks from the named airways direct passengers to a web site the place they robotically are logged in to the check-in characteristic for his or her flight. In some instances, they will make sure modifications to their reserving and print out their boarding cross.

Once a passenger accesses the susceptible check-in hyperlink, a hacker on the identical community can intercept the credentials that permit entry to the e-ticketing system.

Using these credentials, a hacker can go to the e-ticketing system at any level, even a number of instances, prior to the flight taking off and entry all of the personally identifiable data related to the reserving.

“This vulnerability does not require a man-in-the-middle attack or malware installation in order to be exploited,” Covington stated. “Anyone using the same network as the passenger — wireless or wired — would be able to intercept the credentials for the e-ticketing site.”

Airlines “should never give out links in email which present PII data without authentication,” stated Anthony James, chief technique workplace at CipherCloud.

“This just doesn’t make sense to us,” he instructed TechNewsWorld.

Different airways’ programs expose various kinds of knowledge.

The uncovered knowledge might embody the next:

  • Email addresses
  • First and final names
  • Passport or ID data — together with the doc quantity, the issuing nation and the expiration date
  • Booking references
  • Flight numbers and instances
  • Seat assignments
  • Baggage alternatives
  • Full boarding passes
  • Partial bank card particulars
  • Details of reserving journey firms

Dangers Posed

After accessing a passenger’s check-in, the hacker not solely features entry to the sufferer’s PII, but in addition can add or take away further luggage, change allotted seats, and alter the cell phone quantity or e-mail related to the reserving.

The questionable high quality of boarding cross screening on the gates of some airports raises the likelihood {that a} hacker or legal might print a sufferer’s boarding cross and take a look at to board a scheduled flight with it, Wandera stated.

On the opposite hand, hackers go for targets that provide a excessive return on funding, CipherCloud’s James identified. “Intercepting the email with the ticket link gets the PII of just one traveler.”

Further, “everything depends on a boarding and a picture ID to get past security,” James famous. “The picture ID remains the backstop of the security procedure.”

Clear and Present Network Dangers

Security consultants for years have suggested vacationers to keep away from utilizing public WiFi networks and resort networks for vital communications.

“Network traffic is more easily intercepted on an unencrypted wireless network or on a typical wired hotel or office network,” Wandera’s Covington identified.

It is “more challenging for an attacker to observe connections taking place over a carrier network,” he famous, however airways ought to “address some fundamental security issues” themselves.

Coming to America

KLM and AirFrance “are closely integrated as part of the same company,” famous Colin Bastable, CEO of Lucy Security.

They accomplice with Delta Airlines by way of SkyTeam, “introducing a potential third-party risk to the United States domestic market via Delta’s eight U.S. hubs,” he instructed TechNewsWorld.

Code-sharing with Air France and KLM “might have expensive consequences for Delta should a data breach occur as a result of this problem” stated Bastable, as a result of GDPR laws “take a bite out of global earnings for data breaches.”

Further, new compliance laws proposed within the U.S., such because the American Data Dissemination Act and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 might make distributors chargeable for penalties and violations in the event that they expose PII knowledge with out requiring authentication, CipherCloud’s James stated.

How to Keep PII Safe

Following are some steps Wandera really useful that airways ought to take:

  • Encrypt your complete check-in course of;
  • Require person authentication for all steps the place PII is accessible, particularly when it may be edited; and
  • Use one-time tokens for direct hyperlinks inside emails.

“If the link takes you directly to the passenger name record without login, it’s absolutely a potential problem,” CipherCloud’s James stated. “You must always require login and authentication.”

Users ought to have an energetic cellular safety service deployed to monitor and block knowledge leaks and phishing assaults, Wandera suggested.

Passengers on the eight airways named “should print their boarding pass at home,” Lucy Security’s Bastable urged, “and avoid using mobile check-in at the airport.”


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus embody cybersecurity, cellular applied sciences, CRM, databases, software program improvement, mainframe and mid-range computing, and utility improvement. He has written and edited for quite a few publications, together with Information Week and Computerworld. He is the writer of two books on consumer/server expertise. Email Richard.



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