United Airlines introduces mobile passport scans, security threats

August 11, 2014 Arctic Wolf Networks

It was announced last week that United Airlines will be offering mobile passport scans – a feature on its mobile app that allows customers to scan their passports before international flights via their iOS and Android mobile devices.

For customers to use mobile passport scans, the application uses a device’s built-in camera to take a picture of the passport, similar to a mobile check deposit. After taking the initial scan, users have the ability to store the picture within United’s system to avoid scanning their passport each time they fly. The feature is able to be accessed when checking in for international flights up to 24 hours before departure.

United is the first airline to offer a mobile passport scanning feature, according to PC Magazine. The service is still being tested, but it is available for use through the company’s mobile app. The application has gotten some 13 million downloads in just the last year after United released a redesigned format, The Wall Street Journal reported.

While the oft-cited reason for the application’s new feature is convenience, the ability to scan and store a picture of a passport on to a third-party system creates a host of potential security threats. Knowing that such valuable data is stored in United’s app database will almost certainly entice cybercriminals to attempt to break in and steal users’ passport information, creating a need for increased security measures.

United, and any other company hosting sensitive enterprise data, would do well to employ security information and event management services to keep an eye on network activity. With a concierge SIEM solution, a third-party provider will monitor what is happening on enterprise networks and systems and provide companies with actionable intelligence to help defend against and mitigate the effects of data breaches.

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