In A Closed Airport Concourse, Could POS Be Open For Theft?

Written by Frank Hayes
June 22nd, 2011

A recent YouTube video featuring two photographers killing time overnight at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport includes a scene that should have retailers worried. The two-minute clip includes shots of the pair racing wheelchairs, making public-address announcements and pretending to shine each other’s shoes along the apparently deserted concourse.

Another scene shows them wandering through a restaurant kitchen and pouring a drink at the bar. That raises an obvious question: If they could help themselves to the beer, could they—or anyone else—help themselves to the POS?

The video, posted June 16, was shot after the pair were stranded in Dallas when their connecting flight home was canceled. With photography gear they normally use to shoot racecar videos, they spent several hours improvising and filming scenes. And in fact, the concourse wasn’t actually deserted. Security guards watched them at least part of the time they filmed themselves and apparently didn’t stop the pair because they weren’t posing a threat to the airport.

That doesn’t make the scene in the restaurant any less unnerving (it starts at the 1:02 mark in the video). Security guards clearly aren’t around as one of the pair borrows a glass from the kitchen and then pours himself a beer at the tap. He obviously has the run of the place—and if he’d been inclined to tamper with a PIN pad or POS instead of clowning around and making a video, he’d have had plenty of time and privacy to do his work.

And if it could happen at one airport, where else might it be possible? Unlocked, open-format restaurants aren’t uncommon in airports, hotels, hospitals and other 24-hour environments where the businesses aren’t open 24/7. If all the parts of the POS aren’t locked down or locked away, they’re vulnerable. Yes, there are supposed to be security guards in hotels and airports. You can (literally) see how much protection they provided.

The same potential exists in shopping malls, where not all fast-food restaurants are completely locked but the mall itself is often open outside of business hours. Convention centers and hospitals also often have unlocked-after-hours restaurants and kiosks. Food and products are usually locked away, but a much higher value theft—payment-card numbers—may be ripe for stealing.

(And if none of your stores is in one of those open-24-hours environments, just remember: There’s always the chance that a store might decide to open itself.)

It’s bad enough that thieves seem to be able to tamper with POS systems at will in some chains. Just think what they could do if they were undisturbed for hours.


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