Category Archives: parents

Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage: When women don’t insist on waiting, men behave badly

Marriage

KEVIN, A 24-YEAR-OLD recent college graduate from Denver, wants to get married someday and is “almost 100% positive” that he will. But not soon, he says, “because I am not done being stupid yet. I still want to go out and have sex with a million girls.” He believes that he’s figured out how to do that:

“Girls are easier to mislead than guys just by lying or just not really caring. If you know what girls want, then you know you should not give that to them until the proper time. If you do that strategically, then you can really have anything you want…whether it’s a relationship, sex or whatever. You have the control.”

Kevin (not his real name) was one of 100 men and women, from a cross-section of American communities, that my team and I interviewed five years ago as we sought to understand how adults in their 20s and early 30s think about their relationships. He sounds like a jerk. But it’s hard to convince him that his strategy won’t work—because it has, for him and countless other men.

Marriage in the U.S. is in open retreat. As recently as 2000, married 25- to 34-year-olds outnumbered their never-married peers by a margin of 55% to 34%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, those estimates had almost reversed, with never-marrieds outnumbering marrieds by 53% to 40%. Young Americans have quickly become wary of marriage.

Many economists and sociologists argue that this flight from marriage is about men’s low wages. If they were higher, the argument goes, young men would have the confidence to marry. But recent research doesn’t support this view. A May 2017 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, focusing on regions enriched by the fracking boom, found that increased wages in those places did nothing to boost marriage rates. Another hypothesis blames the decline of marriage on men’s fear of commitment.

Maybe they just perceive marriage as a bad deal. But most men, including cads such as Kevin, still expect to marry. They eventually want to fall in love and have children, when their independence becomes less valuable to them. They are waiting longer, however, which is why the median age at marriage for American men has risen steadily and is now approaching 30.

The big changes: birth control and online porn.

My own research points to a more straightforward and primal explanation for the slowed pace toward marriage: For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age. This transformation was driven in part by birth control. Its widespread adoption by women in recent decades not only boosted their educational and economic fortunes but also reduced their dependence on men. As the risk of pregnancy radically declined, sex shed many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to wait.

These forces have been at work for more than a half-century, since the birth-control pill was invented in 1960, but it seems that our norms and narratives about sexual relationships have finally caught up with the technology. Data collected in 2014 for the “Relationships in America” project—a national survey of over 15,000 adults, ages 18 to 60, that I oversaw for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture—asked respondents when they first had sex in their current or most recent relationship. After six months of dating? After two? The most common experience—reported by 32% of men under 40—was having sex with their current partner before the relationship had begun. This is sooner than most women we interviewed would prefer.

The birth-control pill is not the only sexual technology that has altered expectations. Online porn has made sexual experience more widely and easily available too. A laptop never says no, and for many men, virtual women are now genuine competition for real partners. In the same survey, 46% of men (and 16% of women) under 40 reported watching pornography at some point in the past week—and 27% in the past day.

Many young men and women still aspire to marriage as it has long been conventionally understood—faithful, enduring, focused on raising children. But they no longer seem to think that this aspiration requires their discernment, prudence or self-control.

When I asked Kristin, a 29-year-old from Austin, whether men should make sacrifices to get sex, she offered a confusing prescription: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s OK if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.”

Kristin rightly wants the men whom she dates to treat her well and to respect her interests, but the choices that she and other women have made unwittingly teach the men in their lives that such behavior is noble and nice but not required in order to sleep with them. They are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.

For many men, the transition away from a mercenary attitude toward relationships can be difficult. The psychologist and relationship specialist Scott Stanley of the University of Denver sees visible daily sacrifices, such as accepting inconveniences in order to see a woman, as the way that men typically show their developing commitment. It signals the expectation of a future together. Such small instances of self-sacrificing love may sound simple, but they are less likely to develop when past and present relationships are founded on the expectation of cheap sex.

Young people in the U.S. continue to marry, even if later in life, but the number of those who never marry is poised to increase. In a 2015 article in the journal Demography, Steven Ruggles of the University of Minnesota predicted that a third of Americans now in their 20s will never wed, well above the historical norm of just below 10%.

Most young Americans still seek the many personal and social benefits that come from marriage, even as the dynamics of today’s mating market conspire against them. It turns out that a world in which it is possible to satisfy our sexual desires much more immediately carries with it a number of unhappy and unintended consequences.

Dr. Regnerus is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy” (Oxford University Press).

Court Alert: Adult Sex With 16-Year-Olds Is Legal, But Sending Nude Photos Is Not

Child rape

INDIANAPOLIS — An adult can legally have sex with a 16 year old in Indiana, but sending a nude photo to a teen of the same age is illegal, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

The Monday decision means Sameer G. Thakar of Fishers, Ind., will face trial on one felony count of disseminating matter harmful to a minor, a charge originally dismissed last year.

A trial court dismissed the charges in May 2016 on the basis that the state’s dissemination statute was vague because the age of consent to sexual activity in Indiana is 16. The dismissal was upheld by the Indiana Court of Appeals in February and transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court this May.

The high court Monday said the law is not ambiguous.

“The Dissemination Statute clearly protects minors under the age of 18 from the dissemination of matter harmful to them,” Justice Mark S. Massa wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Whether this inconsistent statutory treatment of minors aged 16 and 17 is advisable with respect to sexually-related activity is a matter for the legislature, and whether Thakar’s alleged conduct violated the Dissemination Statute is a matter for the jury.”

Authorities say Thakar sent a nude picture of himself to an Oregon girl who he knew was only 16. The two had been chatting online from Jan. 20 to Feb. 12, 2014.

The FBI notified the Fishers Police Department of the incident.

Thakar admitted to Fishers police that he had a problem chatting online and said he knew why investigators were asking about the girl from Oregon, according to court documents.

In his legal defense, Thakar cited Salter v. State, in which the defendant argued that it was “patently illogical” that a man could legally expose himself to a consenting 16-year-old in person but not via photograph.

The court in that case held that the statute was unconstitutionally vague because the activity wouldn’t be considered “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors,” which Massa said is a necessary element of the definition “harmful to minors” under state law.

But in the opinion issued Monday, all five Indiana justices agreed that the state’s dissemination statue was clear in its terms.

Massa wrote in his opinion that the dissemination statue and the consent statute can be followed at the same time.

“With respect to a 16-year-old, consensual sexual activity in person is permitted, the dissemination of a sexually-explicit photograph (consensually or otherwise) is not,” he wrote.

Messages left with Thakar’s attorneys Tuesday afternoon were not immediately returned.

USA Today Contributing: Justin Mack, The Indianapolis Star.

 

Judge Rules Law Banning Teacher-Student Sex Is Unconstitutional

School Safety SERAPH

An Alabama judge has ruled this week that a state law criminalizing teacher-student sex is unconstitutional — and dismissed charges against a teacher and aide accused of having relations with their students, according to local media.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson issued the ruling on Thursday — dismissing the charges against Carrie Witt, who taught at Decatur High School, and David Solomon, a former aide at Falkville High, AL.com reported.

The law, created in 2010, prohibits school employees from having sex with students under 19 — and violators could be charged with a Class B felony, carrying a punishment of up to 20 years behind bars, the site reported. The law requires those convicted to register as sex offenders — and consent is not a defense.

But defense attorneys have argued that the law violates teachers’ equal protection right under the 14th Amendment, because it treats teachers and other school employees differently than other citizens, the outlet reported. In Alabama, other adults who have consensual sex with 16-year-olds do not face criminal prosecution.

“The Court finds this statute unconstitutional as applied to these defendants,” Thompson wrote in his order, according to AL.com. “In finding so, this court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing or to excuse the defendants. Moreover, the court does not encourage any similarly situated party to engage with impunity in what may very well be criminal behavior.”

Witt, 43, a history, psychology and social studies teacher who also coached girls’ golf and junior varsity cheer, was charged with two counts of a school employee having sex with a student in March of 2016, the outlet reported.

She is accused of having sex with a male student who was 17 when the relationship started and another male student who was 18, authorities said.

Solomon, 26, was fired later that month after his arrest on one count of a school employee having sex with a student.

He is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old female student whom he met on Facebook, police said.

Judges have been asked to dismiss the charges in other similar cases on unconstitutionality grounds, but have neglected to do so, AL.com reported.

“We’ve already been in touch with the [Attorney General’s] Office and they are going to handle the appeal, which is typical when a state statute is attacked on a constitutional basis,” Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson told the outlet.

New York Post

 

The Juggalos Gang Is Marching On Washington And The ACLU Is Behind It.

Juggalos Gang

Protesters this year have marched on Washington, D.C. for many reasons.

Now, here come the Juggalos.

Followers of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse — aka Juggalos — are holding a march Saturday on the National Mall, alleging discrimination after the FBI labeled the group a gang in a 2011 report.

The band, consisting of the duo Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, said the gang accusation “has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of people subjected to various forms of discrimination, harassment, and profiling simply for identifying as a Juggalo.” In a video on the their website, the hip-hop artists claim their fans have lost jobs, custody of their children and been denied access to the military for their Juggalo affiliation.

Juggalos are known for displaying the band’s symbol, a man running with a hatchet, and the signature white-and-black face paint. The FBI placed Juggalos on the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment following reports of crimes committed by people who wear Juggalo tattoos and clothing. Federal officials state there are more than one million Juggalos in the United States.

The band and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Juggalos in 2014, claiming they had been targeted by police. A federal judge tossed the lawsuit later that year, saying the FBI isn’t responsible for how the report is used by local law enforcement agenies. The group, on the march’s website, said their case was again dismissed, prompting the march.

The group calls the gang label untrue. Juggalos, the website said, are a family “united by a shared love of music and fellowship.”

The event begins at 2 p.m. Saturday in front of the Lincoln Memorial and ends with an Insane Clown Posse performance. The group has told its followers not to destroy property or come intoxicated.

, USA TODAY

Disrespect For The Sound of Music

Why Austria Won’t Honor Maria von Trapp

Yes, “The Sound of Music” is a heavily fictionalized version of the Trapp family story. But it’s true that they did risk their lives to flee Austria and the Nazis to come to America.

So why, asks Julia Dent at Acculturated, does the city of Salzburg refuse to honor them with a street name? The answer: “Because the real Maria von Trapp used corporal punishment on the children.”

Never mind that it wasn’t illegal, or even uncommon, in that era. And Maria never hid the fact that she was no Julie Andrews, but “a pretty harsh and strict person.” Says Dent: “Hollywood thought her worthy enough to make a movie about her life,” so “shame on Austria for being too cowed by political correctness to embrace one of its bravest citizens.”

iGen – The Codependent – Arrested Development Generation And Why You Should Care

iGen

Controversial speakers are being shut down on campus because today’s college students are obsessed with psychological safety and have little experience with negotiating conflicts.

In the past few years, many U.S. college campuses have become embroiled in controversies over free speech. Students have insisted on “safe spaces” to protect themselves from ideas with which they disagree and have demanded the dismissal of faculty members who offend their sensibilities. Campus speakers have been “disinvited” when students object to their point of view. Such events were rare just five years ago but now seem to occur constantly during the school year. Why has this happened? What is so different about today’s students that many of them denounce faculty and administrators who suggest that a basic expectation of university life is for people with differing perspectives to talk to each other?

Meet iGen, the generation of young Americans born after 1995 and the first to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones in their hands. Puzzling as the recent campus controversies might seem, they are rooted in the unique psychology and life experiences of this cohort.

First, iGen’ers grew up in an era of smaller families and protective parenting. They rode in car seats until they were in middle school, bounced on soft-surface playgrounds and rarely walked home from school. For them, unsurprisingly, safety remains a priority, even into early adulthood.

As I found in analyzing several large national surveys of teens from all backgrounds, fewer of them in the 2010s (as compared with the 2000s) say that they like to take risks, and fewer say they get a thrill out of doing something dangerous. That has real benefits. Fewer get into car accidents or physical fights. In the annual Monitoring the Future survey of more than a half million 12th-graders, the number who binge-drank was cut in half between the late 1990s and 2016. In previous eras, teens were willing to live on the edge by doing things they knew weren’t safe—that was the nature of being a teen. Not anymore.

Nor are they just concerned about physical safety. The iGen teens I have interviewed also speak of their need for “emotional safety”—which, they say, can be more difficult to protect. “I believe nobody can guarantee emotional safety,” one 19-year-old told me. “You can always take precautions for someone hurting you physically, but you cannot really help but listen when someone is talking to you.” This is a distinctively iGen idea: that the world is an inherently dangerous place because every social interaction carries the risk of being hurt. You never know what someone is going to say, and there’s no way to protect yourself from it.

The result is a generation whose members are often afraid to talk to one another, especially about anything that might be upsetting or offensive. If everyone must be emotionally safe at all times, a free discussion of ideas is inherently dangerous. Opposing viewpoints can’t just be argued against; they have to be shut down, because merely hearing them can cause harm.

‘This frame of mind lies behind recent student agitation to keep controversial speakers off campus.’

This frame of mind lies behind recent student agitation to keep controversial speakers off campus. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit watchdog group, campus disinvitations have risen steadily, reaching an all-time high of 42 in 2016, up from just six in 2000. In the American Freshman survey of more than 140,000 college students conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute in 2015, 43% agreed that campuses should be able to ban extreme speakers, up from just 20% in 1984.

The reasons for disinvitations frequently refer to the safety of students. When Williams College disinvited a speaker with provocative views on race, the campus newspaper wrote that his presence on campus would have caused students “emotional injury.” When controversial speakers do come, it is now fashionable to create a “safe space” where students can go if they feel upset.

Members of iGen are also taking longer to grow up. As I found in analyzing seven large national surveys of teens, today’s adolescents are less likely to drive, drink, work, date, go out and have sex than were teens just 10 years ago. Today’s 18-year-olds look like 15-year-olds used to. They don’t reach adulthood too early, but they also lack experience with independence and decision-making.

The result is a generation that looks to college administrators to settle disputes, like squabbling siblings appealing to their parents. Unaccustomed to independence, they want an authority figure to step in. At San Diego State University in 2016, students wanted the university president to apologize for fliers posted by an off-campus group. At Yale University in 2015, a faculty member suggested that students use their own judgment about potentially offensive Halloween costumes rather than let the administration dictate the rules. The students demanded that she resign.

Campus as a “home,” evoking the protected cocoon of childhood, is a theme in many of these incidents. During the controversy at Yale, a student yelled, “It is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students…It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! It is about creating a home here!”

Members of iGen have spent more time with screens and less time interacting with each other in person than any previous generation. Because they communicate primarily online, most of the threats they experience come through social media or texts, not in person. For iGen, danger tends to take the form of words, not physical altercations. At the extreme, this has led to the belief that words can be violence—the belief at the core of disinvitations, “trigger warnings” to alert students to potentially offensive material, and campus speech restrictions. In the American Freshman survey, iGen college students were more likely than Gen X students in the 1990s to agree that “colleges should prohibit racist or sexist speech.”

Finally, in a time of growing income inequality, iGen believes that you either make it or you don’t—so you’d better make it. Compared with previous generations, they are more likely to say that they are going to college to get a good job and less likely to say that they hope the experience will broaden their education and point of view.

To faculty and administrators who grew up in previous eras, college is a place for being challenged by new ideas. Members of iGen disagree: They see college as a place to prepare for a career in a safe environment. They don’t necessarily see a connection between participating in big social and political debates and getting a job that pays well.

All of these iGen factors have combined to create a perfect storm at U.S. colleges. It isn’t hard to see why these young people, looking for safety and practicality, now clash so regularly with their elders when controversial ideas arrive on campus.

—Dr. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” (Atria).

Nursing Homes Are More Deadlier Than Ever

Nursing-Home-Abuse

Nursing home residents trapped in wheelchairs with floodwaters rising to their waists — the photo of Hurricane Harvey everyone’s seen. But even where the weather’s fine, nursing home residents are in danger.

An alert issued Monday by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services calls for urgent action. It cites incidents in 33 states where residents were rushed to emergency rooms because of rape, broken bones or severe neglect. The IG warned families to “visit your loved ones often” and “report potential cases of abuse or neglect to your local police.”

One out of every three Baby Boomers will at some point need a nursing home. Not necessarily for permanent living. Many will go for rehab after heart surgery or an orthopedic repair, never thinking the stay could turn deadly.

Robert Pineda, a New Mexico accountant, had surgery on his injured knee, then went to a rehab near the hospital. Inadequate care led to a bedsore, which became infected, requiring several surgeries, landing him on dialysis and a ventilator. He was taken off life support one week before his 69th birthday.

Here in New York, Lana Chmielewski said her mother spent “11 days of hell” at James Square Health and Rehabilitation Centre in Syracuse. She developed bedsores and an infection, forcing her back to the hospital, where she died four days later.

You can blame the indifference of hospital administrators and government officials for the frequency of these tragedies. When hospital patients are told they need to go to rehab, instead of straight home, the hospital hands them a list of facilities.

Beware. Some facilities have five-star ratings from Medicare, but others have only one or two stars, meaning substandard care. Hospital staff don’t tell you that.

Laura Rees took her 88-year-old mother to a facility on the top of the list, clueless that it had only one star. Three weeks later, according to the California judge who ruled in the case, Laura’s mother was left to “drown in what appeared to be her own excrement.”

What can families do? Complaining to the facility usually elicits “We’re short-staffed.” That’s what Lee Ann Johnson was told when she came to James Square each morning, always finding her husband drenched in urine.

Conditions were so bad, the state attorney general raided James Square in June. But enforcement actions are rare. New York has 600 nursing homes, and 40 percent of them provide substandard care, according to Medicare.

City quietly lifts parts of stop-work order on controversial nursing home
The worst facilities appear on Medicare’s Special Focus probationary list. Currently there are 82 listed, including three in New York, one in New Jersey and one in Greenwich, Conn., with the misleading name RegalCare. Even that list isn’t foolproof: James Square wasn’t on it, despite the horrors uncovered there.

New York state keeps a publicly available tally of complaints filed against private nursing homes. It’s worth checking. Still, facilities with numerous complaints stay open, filling beds with unsuspecting patients.

Amazingly, state-run facilities are less accountable. “Secrets are brushed under the rug,” says Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who has been trying to uncover facts about Steven Wenger, a 41-year-old man unable to speak, walk or breathe without a ventilator due to a car accident.

Wenger lived upstate at a state-run disabled-care facility in Rome. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that maggots had infested Wenger’s throat. Information on abuse and neglect in state institutions is almost never released to the public, the AP says. Officials claim they’re protecting patient privacy.

New Jersey enacted Peggy’s Law this month, imposing fines on employees who witness neglect or assault and fail to call police. It will empower caregivers to do the right thing. A similar bill awaits action in the New York Legislature.

Every state should pass such a bill. To spare patients the agony of living with abuse and dying from it.

Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy research and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.

ALERT NY PARENTS: Loophole Lets Sex Offenders Live Near Pre-K Programs

kindergarten

A loophole in state law is allowing dozens of sex offenders to live near pre-kindergarten programs throughout the city, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report — based on an investigation by the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference — found that at least 93 convicted child molesters legally live within 1,000 feet of pre-K programs in the five boroughs.

The investigation also found that an additional 60 predators are violating state law by living within 1,000 feet of pre-K classes located within schools.

State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools — but there’s no provision covering stand-alone pre-kindergarten programs.

“What we found is mind-boggling,” said Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), the head of the IDC.

“With a growing number of students attending pre-kindergarten programs, this glaring loophole in the law allowing predators to live right next door to children must be closed.”

For three years, the GOP-controlled state Senate has passed a bill to close the pre-K loophole.

But each year, corresponding legislation has died in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

“Sometimes in the Assembly they feel that if you enhance any types of criminal penalties, somehow you have a disproportionate impact on our communities of color,” Klein said.

“In this case, certainly no one can say that we should be supportive of anyone who commits crimes against children.”

A spokesman for the Assembly did not return a message for comment.

The borough with the most sexual predators legally living near pre-K programs is Queens, with 33. The Bronx is a close second, with 32. There are 22 in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan and only one on Staten Island.

Cynthia Arroyo, who teaches at the Twinkle Star pre-K program in Inwood, said she plans to make calls to several Assembly members.

“It makes us feel unprotected,” she said of the loophole.

Why It’s A Bad Idea to Post or Trash Your Airline Boarding Pass

Travel Dale Yeager Blog

An October 2015 piece published here about the potential dangers of tossing out or posting online your airline boarding pass remains one of the most-read stories on this site. One reason may be that the advice remains timely and relevant: A talk recently given at a Czech security conference advances that research and offers several reminders of how being careless with your boarding pass could jeopardize your privacy or even cause trip disruptions down the road.

In What’s In a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot, KrebsOnSecurity told the story of a reader whose friend posted a picture of a boarding pass on Facebook. The reader was able to use the airline’s Web site combined with data printed on the boarding pass to discover additional information about his friend. That data included details of future travel, the ability to alter or cancel upcoming flights, and a key component need to access the traveler’s frequent flyer account.

A search on Instagram for “boarding pass” returned 91,000+ results.

More recently, security researcher Michal Špaček gave a talk at a conference in the Czech Republic in which he explained how a few details gleaned from a picture of a friend’s boarding pass posted online give him the ability to view passport information on his friend via the airline’s Web site, and to change the password for another friend’s United Airlines frequent flyer account.

Working from a British Airways boarding pass that a friend posted to Instagram, Špaček found he could log in to the airline’s passenger reservations page using the six-digit booking code (a.k.a. PNR or passenger name record) and the last name of the passenger (both are displayed on the front of the BA boarding pass).

Once inside his friend’s account, Špaček saw he could cancel future flights, and view or edit his friend’s passport number, citizenship, expiration date and date of birth. In my 2015 story, I showed how this exact technique permitted access to the same information on Lufthansa customers (this still appears to be the case).

Špaček also reminds readers about the dangers of posting boarding pass barcodes or QR codes online, noting there are several barcode scanning apps and Web sites that can extract text data stored in bar codes and QR codes. Boarding pass bar codes and QR codes usually contain all of the data shown on the front of a boarding pass, and some boarding pass barcodes actually conceal even more personal information than what’s printed on the boarding pass.

As I noted back in 2015, United Airlines treats its customers’ frequent flyer numbers as secret access codes. For example, if you’re looking for your United Mileage Plus number, and you don’t have the original document or member card they mailed to you, good luck finding this information in your email correspondence with the company.

When United does include this code in correspondence, all but the last three characters are replaced with asterisks. The same is true with United’s boarding passes. However, the customer’s full Mileage Plus number is available if you take the time to decode the barcode on any United boarding pass.

Until very recently, if you knew the Mileage Plus number and last name of a United customer, you would have been able to reset their frequent flyer account password simply by guessing the multiple-choice answer to two secret questions about the customer. However, United has since added a third step — requiring the customer to click a link in an email that gets generated when someone successfully guesses the multiple-choice answers to the two secret questions.

It’s crazy how many people post pictures of their boarding pass on various social networking sites, often before and/or during their existing trip. A search on Instagram for the term “boarding pass”, for example, returned more than 91,000 such images. Not all of those images include the full barcode or boarding record locator, but plenty enough do and that’s just one social network.

Nohl notes that the six digit booking code or PNR is essentially a temporary password issued by airlines that is then summarily printed on all luggage tags and inside all boarding pass barcodes.

For anyone interested in how much of today’s airline industry still relies on security by obscurity, check out this excellent talk from last year’s Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) in Berlin by security researchers Karsten Nohl and Nemanja Nikodijevic. Nohl notes that the six digit booking code or PNR is essentially a temporary password issued by airlines that is then summarily printed on all luggage tags and inside all boarding pass barcodes.

“You would imagine that if they treat it as a password equivalent then they would keep it secret like a password,” Nohl said. “Only, they don’t, but rather print it on everything you get from the airline. For instance, on every piece of luggage you have your last name and the six-digit (PNR) code.”

In his talk, Nohl showed how these PNRs are used in code-sharing agreements between and among airlines, meaning that gaining access to someone else’s frequent flyer account may reveal information associated with that customer’s accounts at other airlines.

Nohl and his co-presenter also demonstrated how some third-party travel sites do little to prevent automated programs from rapidly submitting the same last name and changing the PNR, essentially letting an attacker brute-force a targeted customer’s PNR.

My advice: Avoid the temptation to brag online about that upcoming trip or vacation. Thieves looking to rob someone in your area will be delighted to see this kind of information posted online.

Don’t post online pictures of your boarding pass or anything else with a barcode in it (e.g., there are currently 42,000 search results on Instagram for “concert tickets”).

Finally, avoid leaving your boarding pass in the trash at the airport or tucked into that seat-back pocket in front of you before deplaning. Instead, bring it home and shred it. Better still, don’t get a paper boarding pass at all (use a mobile).

By Brian Krebs