Ryanair disses booking system security fears
Updated Budget airline Ryanair has reacted with indignation to suggestions that its booking system ought to be more secure.
While most airlines only allow modifications to bookings once a passenger has verified themselves using a password and booking reference, Ryanair adopts a lower standard. German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel found that Ryanair’s booking system gives a user three ways to log in before modifying their booking.
One of the mechanisms involves entering three pieces of information - date of flight, email address and origin and destination of flight - that might easily be guessed, providing a miscreant knew a prospective mark was about to go off on a trip. Such information might easily be gleaned from Facebook, Twitter or FourSquare, of course.
Daniel de Carvalho, a spokesman for Ryanair, dismissed concerns that extra (or as he put it "superfluous"1) security to its booking system might be needed in defence against possible attacks. He told Der Tagesspiegel that it's up to passengers to keep their information secure, implying it's a passenger's hard luck if something goes awry.
But as web developer Thomas Cannon points out, email addresses are freely handed out on business cards and seldom kept secret. Once an email address is known then it becomes a simple exercise in scripting to try every possible combination of flight for a particular day.
"If we knew someone’s email address and were to write a script that programatically submitted requests to the Ryanair website at a relatively slow rate of four per second, it would take just over 10 minutes to check every flight permutation for a flight on a single date," Cannon argues. "To brute force every permutation against an email address for the whole of next month it would take just over five hours."
Once logged into a booking system a criminal would be able to modify bookings or add services. However Ryanair said valid credit card details would still have to be entered at this point. Previously used payment details would not be used.
"Payment would have to be paid by the 'hacker' - which has never happened," a Ryanair spokesman told El Reg.
"To access a booking you have to enter personal information that only you should know, there is nothing to gain by accessing another persons booking and there has never been a case of someone fraudulently doing so," he said. "Talk of 'brute force' attacks are pointless and overly dramatic."
1 The Ryanair spokesman who spoke to us said that nobody at Ryanair would use the word "superfluous".
You pay peanuts? You get monkeys.
Ryanair: By cheapskates. For cheapskates.
(Downvote all you want. It won't help you get your money back :0) )
I don't know why they are complaining...
It's a golden opportunity for them.
1) Provide username/password to user at time of booking
2) If they didn't print it off at the time, charge them £40 for a reminder
Or something along those lines. Whatever needs to be changed, Ryanair will work out a way to milk a profie from it.
possible != probable
So there's a possibility (Q: has it ever, actually happened) that a bad person could change the details of a fliers booking, or cancel it. So, apart from doing mischeif what the hell would be the point? There's no possibility the bad person could make a financial gain for themselves from this - which therefore rules out 99.9 ... percent of the motivation for doing bad things to other people via the internet.
At best the miscreant would cause an unknown amount of inconvenience to a person they've never met. [If the target was someone they knew, they would surely have more direct ways of annoying them and could use their knowledge of that person to much greater effect].
So, yes. In theory this sort of activity may be possible. In practice the reasons for doing so would be so slight that an argument could be put that the person doing it had a mental health problem. In the real world it would be interesting to hear if there were any stories of this happening - either proven or even hearsay, to let us quantify the actual size of the problem.