Most top travel websites fail to protect user security

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Dashlane examined password and account security on 55 of the world’s most popular travel-related sites, and found that 89% of sites leave their users’ accounts perilously exposed to hackers due to unsafe password practices.

travel websites security

Researchers tested each website on five critical password and account security criteria. A site received a point for each criterion it met, for a maximum score of 5/5. Any score below 4/5 was considered failing and not meeting the minimum threshold for good password security.

Only 11% (6/55) passed with a score of 4/5 or better, and only one travel-related website received a perfect 5/5 score: Airbnb. Unlike Airbnb, other household names, American Airlines and Carnival Cruise Lines failed, receiving a score of 1/5. The websites even allowed researchers to set up accounts with alphanumeric passwords “12345” and “password.”

“I believe that travelling is the single greatest opportunity to de-stress from daily life and broaden our horizons,” states Emmanuel Schalit, CEO at Dashlane. “However, the modern traveler has to reckon with the many digital hazards associated with a journey — from booking flights, to reserving hotel rooms, to renting a car or looking online for recommendations — which creates many chances for personal data to become compromised. Our intention in ranking travel sites is not to scare people away from one of life’s greatest pleasures, but to make the modern traveler more aware. The days of worrying about just pickpockets are over, digital thieves are the real threat.”

Critical security lapses

Travel sites failed to protect user data across a number of factors.

1. 2FA Failings: A staggering 96% travel sites tested do not provide 2FA (two-factor authentication). The security benefits of enabling 2FA are well documented. In fact, Dashlane recommends enabling 2FA on all sensitive accounts.

Additionally, Dashlane found that 81% of travel sites did not even provide users with a password strength assessment tools during the account creation process.

2. Poor security practices: When compared to results of Dashlane’s 2017 rankings of leading consumer websites, and the more recent 2018 rankings comparing the cryptocurrency exchanges, travel sites performed especially poorly. In the consumer rankings, which examined sites such as Apple, Facebook, and PayPal, only 36% received a failing score. That is in extremely stark contrast to the 89% of sites that failed Dashlane’s 2018 travel examination.

The travel website category with the worst average score belongs to the cruise industry (1.67/5), closely followed by booking websites (2/5). On the other end of the spectrum, rental car websites as a group scored the best on average (2.86/5), but across all categories the scores were poor.

“Big names in the travel industry often come under fire for their physical treatment of customers, receiving public blowback on social media for flight delays, egregious treatment of passengers, or even foodborne illnesses,” continued Schalit. “In many cases the result is a close examination of business practices and positive shift. The travel industry should treat their cybersecurity failings in much the same fashion, and make the necessary changes, such as adding 2FA, in order to protect customers’ digital privacy.”

Travel security best practices

For travels near and far, these are a few easy actions that everyone should take to improve their own online security:

  • Use a unique password for every online account
  • Generate passwords that exceed the minimum of 8 characters
  • Create passwords with a mix of case-sensitive letters, numbers, and special symbols
  • Avoid using passwords that contain common phrases, slang, places, or names
  • Use a password manager to help generate, store, and manage your passwords
  • Under no circumstances should you use an unsecured WiFi connection (e.g. public WiFi) while traveling.