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The Travel Industry Is Under Serious Attacks By Hackers

The Travel Industry Is Under Serious Attacks By Hackers
Scott Dylan

Hackers are attacking airlines like never before.

Your personal information might not be secure if you travel. In fact, 2018 was a disastrous year for cybersecurity in the airline world. How serious is the issue? One report is claiming that cyber attacks against the world’s airlines increased by a jaw-dropping 15,000 percent between 2017 and 2018. It turns out that hackers have discovered that airlines are easy targets. There are many reasons why cyber attacks are problematic in the airline world. Passengers don’t want their names, passport numbers and payment details exposed and potentially sold on a black market somewhere. What’s more, disruptions can actually impact air travel. Find out why the airline industry really needs to get serious about hackers.

The airline industry had 10 major IT outages last year. The outages that were experienced were mostly due to attacks. Digital attacks have resulted in grounded flights in some cases. Southwest’s outage in February was a prime example of just how bad things can get if the airline industry doesn’t do something to stop cybercriminals. Southwest experienced issues with a computer system that automatically uploads flight plans to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Feb. 22. Operations across the airline were suspended for 50 minutes as a result of the issue. Unfortunately, the incident occurred on a Friday morning and interrupted the plans of many angry passengers. A total of 650 flights were delayed as a result of the issue. That works out to about 16 percent of all scheduled flights for a Friday morning being delayed.

Hackers see airlines as easy targets due to the fact that they depend so heavily on computer networks. Airlines use networks for everything from booking passengers to executing flight schedules. It may seem like hackers are just trying to create chaos and disruptions or steal valuable information. However, the reality is that terrorist organizations have every reason to be interested in finding weak points in the IT systems of airlines.

Many travelers had their feathers ruffled last month when it was revealed that the seat-back screens that are used by several major carriers around the world actually contain cameras. Singapore Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines all use these particular screens. All of the airlines have so far stated that the cameras inside their seat-back screens are disabled. The cameras are supposedly there for hypothetical seat-to-seat video conferencing. Of course, passengers are left wondering if hackers could be watching and recording their activities during flights.

What can you do to try to avoid having your flight interrupted by an IT outage?

One thing to remember is that carriers that have recently been through mergers are often more vulnerable to IT attacks. That’s because hackers are able to exploit weak points during transitions.

[Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (3)


  1. strickerj

    March 9, 2019 at 10:11 am

    As someone who follows tech, I know some companies have pretty appalling security, but I’d at least like to think payment and passport information are stored encrypted.

  2. dracjimm


    March 10, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    United – pay attention. Your “two factor” authentication is a joke. Asking to pick from a list of predefined questions with a predefined list of answers is not secure.

    At the very least, use something like Google Authenticator or some other proper 2-factor authentication. And while you’re at it, fire your CISO and your cybersecurity team, they apparently haven’t the slightest clue about security.

  3. Counsellor

    March 11, 2019 at 8:15 am

    If I’m not mistaken, I think Marriott reported a recent breach in the Starwood system (?) that exposed passport numbers.

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