For many, airline miles are a life saver. The more you travel, the more you rack up, which leads to saving money on future trips.
Airline miles are certainly more valuable for people who often take to the skies, with points being earned when flights and other airline services are booked and paid for. Unfortunately, if they are valuable to people like us, they are at the same time an enticing target for criminals.
Indeed, hackers have set their sights on the cyber-skies, seeing airline miles as a way to make some good money. And where do they turn to get it? None other than the Dark Web, of course.
The friendly skies aren’t so friendly
As anyone who has racked up airline miles knows, they can be used for things like tickets and access to airport lounges as well as upgraded flights. Really it should be no surprise that hackers would be after them, and that there is a market for miles makes sense, too.
It also makes dollars.
As noted by Paul Bischoff, who is a privacy advocate at Comparitech.com, stolen airline miles for most of the biggest airlines are available. Not only that, but they can be purchased for substantially less than they are worth by way of Bitcoin and Monero, both of which are common on the Dark Web.
In a blog post, Bischoff wrote that Delta SkyMiles and British Airways were the most commonly listed. Recently, a total of 100,000 British Airways miles were found on sale for just $144, while 45,000 Delta SkyMiles could have been had for about $101.
Fun Fact: The first commercial flight was piloted by Tony Jannus on Jan. 1, 1914 for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat line.
Now, how do the hackers get the miles to begin with?
Turns out they can be stolen via simple account hijacking or by taking advantage of weaknesses within the airline systems that allow the transfer or awarding of points. As Bischoff noted, stolen airline miles don’t really help with booking flights or hotels given that each requires some form of identification, but instead they can be used at local retailers, often via gift cards.
Another thing that makes airline miles a popular target is the fact that most of us don’t always check on or keep an eye on them, so they can be siphoned away without us sounding the alarm.
The actual value of the airline miles varies widely based on the specific program and what they are redeemed for, and there is a good amount of risk involved if you decide to use stolen miles.
Like, for instance, if caught, airlines may go and cancel all of your bookings as you will have violated their terms of service.
Keep your miles safe
Like with most hacks, there are measures you can take to help prevent from becoming a victim. A security expert, Bischoff has some ideas.
You will want to be sure to shred your boarding pass after a flight as well as never post a photo of yours online. Be sure to have a strong password for your account, and keep an eye on it for any abnormal activity.
He added that you should not list your airline account number on a baggage tag, and avoid using public Wi-Fi to access your account.