How Tony Abbott’s passport was hacked and how you can avoid it

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Former prime minister Tony Abbott was taught a valuable lesson about travelling and social media this year after having his passport number and phone number hacked after making a common travel mistake.

The mistake is so common you might have done something very similar yourself at one stage or another. Once you discover the pitfalls, it is a mistake you will be unlikely to make again.

All Mr Abbott did was post a picture of his boarding pass to Instagram when travelling home from Japan in March.

That was all Australian hacker Alex Hope needed to secure Mr Abbott’s passport number, mobile phone number as well as conversations Qantas staff had about their dealings with the passenger.

In an entertaining blog post, Mr Hope detailed how he was able to use this information to reveal all the details necessary to commit identity fraud.

It should be noted that Mr Hope committed no crime with the information he gathered and in fact went to extraordinary lengths to notify Qantas and Mr Abbott about the potential security breach and waited until these holes were fixed before publishing his post, to ensure that others could not benefit from the information.

The important takeaway from the former PM’s mistake is that your boarding pass contains important and private information that you shouldn’t share online.

Mr Hope was able to use the booking reference number printed on the baggage receipt to log on to the Qantas website as Mr Abbott.

Once there, he was able to see all of the booking details and then look at the HTML coding of the site to discover his phone number and passport number.

Mr Hope spent months trying to contact Mr Abbott through the proper channels (even though he had secured his mobile phone number through illicit means) and eventually spoke to the former prime minister who was happy for him to publish his blog post, so that others could learn from his mistake.

“Mostly, he wanted to check whether his understanding of how I’d found his passport number was correct (it was). He also wanted to ask me how to learn about ‘the IT’,” Mr Hope wrote.

“He asked some intelligent questions, like ‘how much information is in a boarding pass, and what do people like me need to know to be safe?’, and ‘why can you get a passport number from a boarding pass, but not from a bus ticket?’.

“It’s, I suppose, a terrible confession of how people my age feel about this stuff,” Mr Abbott was quoted as saying.

“You could drop me in the bush and I’d feel perfectly confident navigating my way out, looking at the sun and direction of rivers and figuring out where to go, but this.”

Mr Hope wrote that he was impressed with Mr Abbott’s response to the incident.

“Back at the beginning, I was kinda worried that he might misunderstand, and think I was trying to hack him or something, and that I’d be instantly slam dunked into jail. But nope, he was fine with it,” Mr Hope wrote.

“[I] realised he just wanted to understand what had happened to him, and more about how technology works. That’s the same kind of curiosity I had.

“The point of this story isn’t to say ‘wow Tony Abbott got hacked, what a dummy’. The point is that if someone famous can unknowingly post their boarding pass, anyone can.”

Have you ever posted your boarding pass online when you travel? Did you know it was possible to glean so much information from your boarding pass? Will you be more cautious in future?

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Written by Ben

25 Comments

Total Comments: 25
  1. 0
    0

    The stupidity and danger of posting your boarding pass on the internet has been well publicised for the last few years.

  2. 0
    0

    I have never heard this before, what I don’t understand is how did this guy knew how to download someone’s information from a boarding pass, he must have been looking for it, why!

  3. 0
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    I think thaat anybody who posts such information on an accessible site should be treated as a refugee and be banned from reentering Australia ever again, by boat or plane. I wonder if Peter Dutton would consider such a move?

  4. 0
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    Tony Abbott has just shown another example of how little he knows and the danger he poses to all Australians.
    You’d have to be very naïve and living under a rock to not know the stupidity and danger of posting any personally identifiable data, especially a boarding pass, ticket stub or baggage tag on the internet. He may as well as published the details page of his passport. It would have been harder to get as much information.
    Many of us have the basic skills needed to lift the data, but Alex Hope who is obviously not out to commit identity fraud has written an article to remind everyone of the risks in carelessly sharing data into the wild west that is the internet.
    I really doubt Tony could navigate his way out of the bush looking at the sun and direction of rivers, but who knows.

  5. 0
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    Tony does may a lot of mistakes does that mean he will not be allowed back into Australia.

  6. 0
    0

    This is a very sad tale because it demonstrates that a man who was once leader of this country has absolutely no idea about technology. He has demonstrated his lack of scientific knowledge in terms of climate change, promoting fossil fuels, and generally deriding the findings of the scientific community. Oh, economics wasn’t a strong point either. Thank heavens he got the shove before he did even more damage.

  7. 0
    0

    This is a very sad tale because it demonstrates that a man who was once leader of this country has absolutely no idea about technology. He has demonstrated his lack of scientific knowledge in terms of climate change, promoting fossil fuels, and generally deriding the findings of the scientific community. Oh, economics wasn’t a strong point either. Thank heavens he got the shove before he did even more damage.

  8. 0
    0

    “The point of this story isn’t to say ‘wow Tony Abbott got hacked, what a dummy’.
    Well, it should be!

    Why would anyone do that, and why would Abbott think anyone is interested in what his boarding pass looks like!

  9. 0
    0

    Most of the comments are just plain anti Abbott, he was prepared to discuss the issue and give the OK to print it. Technology allows us to download our boarding pass onto our mobile phone, people are now using their phones instead of plastic cards; if you have a mobile phone “big brother” can listen to your conversations without being on the phone and can pin point where you are at any given time, so stop being a pack of know-alls and you might just learn something!

  10. 0
    0

    Its only has-been Abbott, who cares, nobody.
    Why are people still interested in this idiot I will never understand.
    Still it would be interesting to know how many pairs of socks he rolled up and stuffed into his budgie smugglers to fill that big empty space. 3 or 4, Any guesses.

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