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The Sabre breach has to shake you. Apparently millions of hotel and airline bookings may have been hoovered out of the onetime American Airlines subsidiary, probably by the same gang of China state sponsored cybercriminals who are said to have been behind many other huge recent breaches at United, the US Office of Personnel Management, Anthem, and many more.
Exact details of the Sabre breach are, as always, sparse. Said the company in a statement: “We recently learned of a cybersecurity incident, and we are conducting an investigation into it now. At this time, we are not aware that this incident has compromised sensitive protected information, such as credit card data or personally identifiable information, but our investigation is ongoing.”
American Airlines is apparently investigating if the hackers backed into the AA computers via Sabre. The two companies are said to share some computer infrastructure.
Even without the extra AA data, the Sabre data haul alone could be in the billions of travel records. Then add in an apparent – and possibly huge breach of passenger records at United. Almost certainly your information is in this very large mix. Should you be worried?
What is obvious is that somebody – and most fingers point to China – is building an enormous database on America’s citizenry that comprises health records, employment records, personal details, and now quite possibly extensive travel records.
Nobody presently has any clue what the intent of the information gatherers is. That has to make us all worry.
There also are obvious – deeply troubling – uses to a storehouse of travel plans. These records are gold to anybody who wants to track spies, suspected spies, handlers, and – say – M&A artists.
What can you do to protect the privacy of your travel data? Not very much. That’s the sad truth.
But there are small steps we can take to conceal our flight and hotel plans.
In bygone years – pre 9/11 – many celebrities and even some ultra rich and executives routinely traveled under fake names. They checked into hotels under pseudonyms and they flew under similar.
That just is not viable today, at least not for commercial air when the TSA demands positive ID and an airline ticket issued in the name on the ID.
Could a high-roller fool the system by buying a cheap SFO to LAX flight, showing that ticket and his/her real ID to TSA…then discarding that tickets and pulling out a ticket to Newark in the name of Daffy Duck?
Probably. But for how long? And how many of us want to suffer the expense just to cover up our wanderings?
And it wouldn’t work at all for international travel.
For those who crave privacy, private planes are the only real option – and for many who want this privacy, the price is not a barrier. When mum has to be the word, go private.
That’s one way to foil the breachers,
What about self-defense in hotels?
I cannot remember the last time I was not asked to produce a photo ID to check into a hotel. Why?
There apparently is no body of law requiring hotels in the US to verify a guest’s identity with a photo ID.
Of course, hotels – ever wary of credit card fraud – want to believe checking IDs will reduce fraud (has it? Of course not).
But that does not give them the right to demand I prove my identity to claim my bed. Or sometimes just to walk into the lobby.
Maybe we should all just stop playing along with the hotels’ identify demand – especially since there are no good reasons to believe hotels are good securers of our information (from ID to credit card data).
Just say no.
The only way to protect oneself from an unknown adversary who is sucking up as much information as he can is to get stingy about leaving traces of it, especially in places that do not need it – and, for me, in travel the obvious places that have no real need for a lot of identifying data is hotels.
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