United Airlines Security Breach

This is not another post attacking SHARES, United's Passenger Service System (PSS). But it is a reminder that the system still has kinks in it, some of which should cause United far greater concern than the many upgrade irregularities that have been reported.

Take a look at this story.

I was trying to buy a last-minute flight, shopping around to get a reasonable price. I had several tabs open to various airlines, and was searching on and off for a few hours. I finally made a decision and decided to purchase a ticket from United Airlines.

I picked a seat and was presented with a page to enter my info for the TSA (pretty standard these days). United had recently updated their site’s interface and had a dropdown to select saved passengers. I clicked the dropdown and was surprised to see a large number of names, none of which were mine. I looked down the list, noticing patterns in people with the same last name, and realized what I was likely looking at: the passenger manifest for the flight.


My point in sharing this story is not to go into the nuances of front-end or back-end security at the new United. I am certainly not alleging United willfully displayed this information and am aware little breaches like this happen from time to time.

But, this situation admittedly concerns me. When I book a flight, I'd like to think that my information will be kept private. It's bad enough that anyone calling United (or most airlines) on my behalf can get my flight and other personal information just by identifying themselves as me. This situation, though, is like taking candy from a baby. I tried to reproduce this problem but could not. Perhaps it truly was just a one-off, but I have to doubt that.

Bottom line, mistakes like this happen, but are evidence of careless error. Let's hope there are not more careless errors that we just have not picked up on yet that compromise our personal information.


A. S. May 25, 2012 at 11:05 am

@Matthew -- Don't be apologetic about attacking SHARES or the "new" United! By all means they deserve it. The new system sucks. The new airline sucks. Problems happen and that's fine, but what separates a good company from a bad one is how it deals with such problems. Frankly, United has failed in how it has dealt with their MANY problems, so why should the passengers have to pretend like all's well???

Fozz May 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

@A.S. Perhaps you don't understand what SHARES is and isn't. Believe it or not, the website is not a part of SHARES. The website talks to the SHARES in the background, but flaws in the website are not indicative of issues with SHARES, but the website.

And Yes, APOLLO was so amazing. The reality is all of these systems have flaws and their limitations. While one may be ahead in one area, it may be behind in another area. They all suck, but to jump on a bandwagon of saying it sucks is a very uneducated view and shows the lack of understanding.

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