13 Jul

BBC News – US airports still vulnerable to attacks, says lawmaker

More than 25,000 security breaches have occurred at US airports since November 2001, a congressional panel has heard.

Jason Chaffetz cited government figures showing the airports were still vulnerable to terror attacks, despite billions invested in security.

Some 6,000 passengers and pieces of luggage breached security screening.

But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the number of breaches represented a fraction of the 5.5bn people screened since 2001.

The TSA said the definition of a security breach was broad, and could represent a range of different situations.

Mr Chaffetz, chairman of a House of Representatives subcommittee, told the panel that more than 14,000 people were able to access sensitive areas of US airports since 2001.

Some 6,000 passengers and pieces of carry-on luggage were able to make it past government checkpoints without proper scrutiny.

via BBC News – US airports still vulnerable to attacks, says lawmaker. The TSA is so effective it’s ineffective.

11 Dec

Journal of Transportation Security – An evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics

Little information exists on the performance of x-ray backscatter machines now being deployed through UK, US and other airports. We implement a Monte Carlo simulation using as input what is known about the x-ray spectra used for imaging, device specifications and available images to estimate penetration and exposure to the body from the x-ray beam, and sensitivity to dangerous contraband materials. We show that the body is exposed throughout to the incident x-rays, and that although images can be made at the exposure levels claimed (under 100 nanoGrey per view), detection of contraband can be foiled in these systems. Because front and back views are obtained, low Z materials can only be reliable detected if they are packed outside the sides of the body or with hard edges, while high Z materials are well seen when placed in front or back of the body, but not to the sides. Even if exposure were to be increased significantly, normal anatomy would make a dangerous amount of plastic explosive with tapered edges difficult if not impossible to detect.

via Journal of Transportation Security – An evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics.. Yet another reason for why the backscatter machines need to be independently tested.

03 Jan

ScottEVest’s – Awesomeness In A Single Jacket

For Christmas one of the gifts from my parental units was a ScottEVest Fleece 5.0 Jacket and it was awesome.

ScottEVest targets people who have a ton of stuff to carry around with them, every article of clothing has more pockets then you would imagine possible. The Fleece Jacket has 24 pockets (yeah you read that right twenty-four) so basically you carry whatever you want in/on the jacket itself.

It has a pocket fit for a paperback book, travel documents, sunglasses (including a lens cleaning cloth), digital camera, two see-through and touchable pockets for your touchscreen mobile phone or gadget, a water bottle, and a dozen more pockets on the jacket. Even better most of the pockets enable you to run headphone wires up and through to the collar. I carried a paperback book, digital camera, cellphone, keys, wallet, and a half a dozen other items all conveniently located. About the only thing I couldn’t haul around was a laptop.

Now I am the type of person who hates having stuff in my jean pockets but I always have so much stuff to carry around, finally this jacket (and the whole line of clothing) gives me a way to carry it all around without needing a satchel of some sort. I was so pleased with the jacket I added to my Amazon Wish List to get even more, the Quantum Jacket, which goes with the Fleece Jacket to make the Scott Jordan Signature System, the Pack Windbreaker and the Microfleece Hoodie.

Even their hat has pockets on it.


The one major complaint I have is all of the pockets have these hard glossy paper cards in them (that you can see in the photo). The cards are designed to ensure that you both know where all of the pockets are and what they are for. I totally dig the thought behind the cards and I found them useful and a lot of fun, but I wish they were more environmentally friendly, I just wound up throwing them all away. The second complaint is that the sunglasses pocket wound up bending my sunglasses. With straight sunglasses, more like a typical pair of glasses, it would be fine. However, I have sunglasses whose frame and lenses are curved, the pocket through either the force of the jacket itself or where they were placed wound up bending the frames.

Quite literally I couldn’t recommend this jacket more than I already have. I’ve wore this jacket every day since I got it and am just so pleased with it.

26 Dec

TSA May Increase Travel Restrictions

Due to a recent incident aboard a US bound flight, where a passenger ignited an explosive powder but which was quickly doused by both fellow passengers and crew members. The TSA is evidently considering disallowing passengers from moving around in the final hour of a plane ride. Quoting from the New York Times article:

According to a statement posted Saturday morning on Air Canada’s Web site, the Transportation Security Administration will severely limit the behavior of both passengers and crew during flights in United States airspace — restricting movement in the last hour of flight. Late Saturday morning, the T.S.A. had not yet included this new information on its own Web site.

As of now I’m also not seeing anything on the TSA site to confirm or deny this statement. But let’s assume that the TSA will in fact restrict travel in this manner. You are going to restrict travelers from moving in the last hour of a plane ride due to a single failed incident in which the person could have tried to light the explosive powder at any point during their flight. So you are really just moving the threat to a different time frame during the trip. That and you are now going to make those short legs really hard to deal with since you already can’t move about the cabin during the climb to cruising altitude. That and plus the crew and passengers defeated this pretty easily and the psychology of passengers aren’t going to let them be so easily taken down (Bruce Schneier talked about this but I am having trouble finding a citation).

My point here is that

  1. this is a pretty localized and small incident that was easily stopped
  2. responding to this single act with an overly broad and inefficient measure does nothing but annoy more people.

Or we could just have the shock collars and be herded like prisoners on and off planes.

Right after I finished this I found a nice article complementing my point from MG Seigler at Techcrunch. And Schneier responds to the rules here.

03 Aug

Moving Is Environmentally Unfriendly

This became really obvious to me today moving my girlfriend to her new place. Just the sheer amount of junk thrown out is crazy. And it wasn’t just her, it was everybody, from electronics and posters to even vacuum cleaners and plastic bins and all kinds of food. Moving just from the basis of the amount of stuff thrown out is environmentally unfriendly it seems to me.

Now granted that if people bought items that they both actually needed and would last longer than a stay at an apartment would certainly help this problem. But it makes me wonder if anyone has done a study on the effects of moving and what are the environmental repercussions of a across city move vs. an across state/country move.