The Flow

Composing and Cogitating

Reflections and tips on tech, websites, the economy, investing, and other insights that come my way

Reservation Paranoia

Reservation Paranoia

When you live in an out-of-the-way state like Montana, most air travel requires at least one stop or plane change prior to reaching your destination. After making reservations, it seems like every couple days I'll receive a notice from the airline stating that an arrival or departure time for one of the four flights that will get us there and home has changed by 2 or 3 minutes. The itinerary doesn't significantly change and the frequent emails can be a rather obnoxious. I've even ignored them from time-to-time. A recent experience with a flight cancellation has taught me to NEVER ignore a notification from an airline regarding one of our trips.

I needed to cancel a flight I had purchased for my daughter's Christmas trip home. The airline had changed the schedule and completely messed up her connection, so we were entitled to a complete refund (amazing!). After completing the refund arrangements, I realized that I had not provided any passwords or information to confirm that I was qualified to cancel the flight. The only information I received was a confirmation of the refund and this didn't arrive via email for two days! Imagine if someone had randomly canceled the flight reservations. I wouldn't know about it for at least two days and, if the refund email was buried in a spam folder, might not know about the cancellation until a day or two prior to traveling!

Pondering this situation, I discovered that I had stumbled upon a huge hole in the airline's security protocols. It would not be difficult for a hacker to set up a system to plug random reservation codes into an airline's website until they hit a valid code. While he couldn't obtain the funds from the refund, a hacker could maliciously cancel a reservation based on the information available on the website! Why would a hacker bother to spend the time? Well, why do they bother to spend the time looking for loopholes in website systems and crashing them? It's just vandalism and maliciousness. Consider what could happen if a group of hackers randomly canceled airline reservations?! It's more than unsettling to contemplate the consequences of a tens or even hundreds of canceled reservations.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe. But these days, a little paranoia can be healthy. So next time you receive yet another notification from an airline regarding your reservations, check it right away.

Apprehensive Optimism
Best Wishes

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Thursday, 21 September 2017