July 25, 2008

Followup - Security concerns at airport kiosks

TORONTO — The possibility that self-serve kiosks at Toronto's Pearson airport were targeted by credit card fraudsters left passengers wary Thursday while at least one expert said it's not surprising an airport would be targeted given the dramatic rise in credit fraud.

"When people think of airports they think of highly secure, security focused environments," said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor specializing in Internet and privacy issues.

"So the notion that in that very environment you could have a significant security breach, many would find troubling."

On Wednesday, Calgary-based WestJet (TSX:WJA) announced it would prevent passengers from using credit cards at check-in kiosks at airports across the country.

The decision was made after financial institutions reportedly began investigating isolated fraud incidents stemming from the use of credit cards to obtain boarding passes from kiosks at Pearson International Airport.

WestJet has cautioned against pinning the blame solely on the kiosks until the investigation is complete.

Incidents of credit card fraud in stores and at bank machines have grown dramatically and if follows that an airport would also be a target, said Geist.

It's worrisome to have highly sensitive information along with other identifying information entered into a self-serve kiosk, he added.

"The potential use or misuse of this data could be widespread."

Although passengers enter sensitive data, such as home address and a passport number, into Pearson's kiosks the Air Transport Association of Canada said the breach only involved credit card information.

Passenger name records, or PNRs, are not maintained on the system of the kiosks but sent to mainframe databases off-site, said spokesman Michael Skrobica.

Wary travellers at Pearson opted Thursday to use Aeroplan cards or passports instead of credit cards to check in at kiosks.

"It makes you stop and pause," said Steve Levinsky.

"Passports are a better way to go than credit cards."

Joel Campbell used a kiosk to grab his boarding pass for a flight to Saint John, N.B.

"I'm a little bit hesitant to put my credit card into anything," said Campbell as he plugged in his Aeroplan card.

"I think it's a little bit weird, a little bit unusual to check in with your credit card."

Pearson's scare has airports across the country paying attention.

Kevin Molloy of the Vancouver Airport Authority said the entire airport community has its ear to the ground.

"In our busy kiosks, we're visiting five, six, seven, eight times a day to ensure the kiosk hasn't been tampered with," said Molloy.

In Toronto, Carissa McKeown, who was heading to Thunder Bay, Ont., was tempted to use the kiosk but ended up leaving the computer screen and heading for the check in line.

"I guess it could happen anywhere when you use a credit card," she said about the possible fraud.

"It's a shame. You think with an airline you'd be more safe since most people book their flights on credit cards."


Posted by staff at July 25, 2008 06:38 AM