The Virgin Airlines Online Security Hack and It’s Sinister Implications

We all know how showbiz can be a very competitive and ruthless world for everyone involved. You might think that celebrities have it easy, but the constant pressure from media outlets and paparazzi getting in their way can put a huge strain on them. There are many examples of paparazzi behaving obnoxiously, but this time the Australian journalists have really crossed the line.

The paparazzi took it so far that they had the nerve to illegally acquire personal information about famous airline passengers. Australian media has reported that they obtained travel itineraries of Nicole Kidman’s daughters, Rebel Wilson, Naomi Watts, and Margot Robbie.

A spokesperson of Virgin Airlines has stated that this scandal affects all airlines across the globe and that they are working together with many other airlines to secure their systems and improve audit controls so that these kinds of issues never happen again.

Nicole Kidman’s representative Wendy Day, has stated that this is a shocking issue and that the security of all family members was in jeopardy, as all of their locations were tracked across the world.

She added that nobody’s children should be endangered, no matter if they are celebrity or not. There were also many other celebrity agents that learned about this matter and the issue is well-known.

The booking information has supposedly leaked through Sabre, a global booking system that works with many travel agents and airlines worldwide. A spokesperson of Virgin Australia has stated that their number one priority is to make sure that all of the information about their passengers is secure and safe.

Computer experts, security companies and Sabre have supposedly identified a problem in another booking system with the name “Amadeus”. This system is also used by Quantas and these flaws are exposing information to a potential vulnerability.

The current database used for coordinating flight bookings across different airlines, online booking sites and travel agents generates PRNs (passenger name records) that have six characters. They are generated whenever a booking has been made.

Still, SR Labs, a security company from Germany claims that they’ve discovered that these PNR numbers are too simple and that they can be guessed easily. Since this company published their discoveries Amadeus has made steps towards making changes and limiting potential unwanted access to this information.

A company’s representative has stated that they’ve added an authentication layer in 2016 when the German company issued their report. Virgin airlines has also taken steps towards limiting access to this information and reduced the number of employees that can access Sabre.

Additionally, many airlines have joined forces to improve security by adding fingerprint authentication in order to track people that have access to this data.

The travel itineraries of celebrities could be a potential gold mine for journalists if obtained. All of their details and flight plans are revealed once they land and pictures of them arriving can also be viewed.

For example, the paparazzi that shot Jasmine Yarbrough and Karl Stefanovic kissing at an airport in LA was able to sell the photos for around $35K. However, even the freelance paparazzi are saying that this is an illegal practice and that the line has been crossed. They say that these rouges are creating a bad rep and making the business unfair and shady.

This problem was pointed out by the community when a photographer Jayden Seyfarth took the liberty of logging in to a check-in machine at the Sydney Airport where he accessed Monk’s boarding passes. Now when this incident has occurred it remains to be seen what the security companies, authorities and airline companies will do to make the problem go away and secure their famous passengers.