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Airline security

Fake boarding pass generator website shows weaknesses in airport security measures

Friday, November 03, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: airline security, Homeland Security, Northwest Airlines


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(NewsTarget) Christopher Soghoian recently created a fake boarding pass generating website that allowed anyone with Internet access to create fake boarding passes for Northwest Airlines. The passes could be generated using any name, any airport and for any date or flight.

Soghoian was then visited by the FBI, which seized his computers and other belongings. Some politicians -- like Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA -- have even called for his arrest amid the controversy over his website.

Soghoian has demonstrated known and obvious vulnerabilities in airport security involving boarding passes and IDs, which are nothing new. Although what Soghoian made available on his website had been published in one form or another several times, this incident was probably the most high-profile involving known security vulnerabilities at major airports.

Soghoian's website was based on a simple precept -- if an airport traveler possesses a fake boarding pass, they can get through airport security with it. In addition, fake boarding passes can also be used to fly on someone else's ticket.

Although two boarding passes can allow terrorists to possibly board planes -- having a fake one to actually board a plane and a real one that matches a photo ID to get through security -- the vulnerability still exists and is easy to exploit, based on what Soghoian offers on his website for free.

With the convenience trend of letting customers print boarding passes at home on computer, the security of boarding passes has largely disappeared. Although boarding pass security measures were adopted after 9/11, easy-to-print boarding passes were quickly reinstated at airports due to pressure form the airlines.

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