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.

06 Jul

LATimes – Implanted bombs: TSA warns of possible terrorist threat of bombs implanted in people

The government has warned airlines that terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into people in an attempt to circumvent screening procedures, according to U.S. officials.

There is no indication of an immediate plot, but the new information could lead to additional screening procedures at the nation’s airports. Existing scanners would not necessarily detect bombs implanted under a person’s skin, experts said.

via LATimes – Implanted bombs: TSA warns of possible terrorist threat of bombs implanted in people. The threats will continue to magically appear until we all fear everything and give up every sense of privacy and self-respect to the TSA to implement rules and procedures that do nothing to solve the real problem.

22 Feb

NBC Dallas-Fort Worth – TSA Source: Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner

An undercover TSA agent was able to get through security at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with a handgun during testing of the enhanced-imaging body scanners, according to a high-ranking, inside source at the Transportation Security Administration.

The source said the undercover agent carried a pistol in her undergarments when she put the body scanners to the test. The officer successfully made it through the airport’s body scanners every time she tried, the source said.

via NBC Dallas-Fort Worth – TSA Source: Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner. Another nail in the proverbial coffin of these scanners being worth anything.

05 Feb

Schneier on Security – UK Immigration Officer Puts Wife on the No-Fly List

A UK immigration officer decided to get rid of his wife by putting her on the no-fly list, ensuring that she could not return to the UK from abroad. This worked for three years, until he put in for a promotion and — during the routine background check — someone investigated why his wife was on the no-fly list.

Okay, so he’s an idiot. And a bastard. But the real piece of news here is how easy it is for a UK immigration officer to put someone on the no-fly list with absolutely no evidence that that person belongs there. And how little auditing is done on that list. Once someone is on, they’re on for good.

That’s simply no way to run a free country.

via Schneier on Security – UK Immigration Officer Puts Wife on the No-Fly List. Imagine being the wife here, go visit your family, try to return, on a list that you can’t even find out why you are on and no way of being able to appeal your inclusion on the list.

30 Jan

Schneier on Security – Domodedovo Airport Bombing

I haven’t written anything about the suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport because I didn’t think there was anything to say. The bomber was outside the security checkpoint, in the area where family and friends wait for arriving passengers. From a security perspective, the bombing had nothing to do with airport security. He could have just as easily been in a movie theater, stadium, shopping mall, market, or anywhere else lots of people are crowded together with limited exits. The large death and injury toll indicates the bomber chose his location well.

I’ve often written that security measures that are only effective if the implementers guess the plot correctly are largely wastes of money — at best they would have forced this bomber to choose another target — and that our best security investments are intelligence, investigation, and emergency response. This latest terrorist attack underscores that even more. "Critics say" that the TSA couldn’t have detected this sort of attack. Of course; the TSA can’t be everywhere. And that’s precisely the point.

via Schneier on Security – Domodedovo Airport Bombing. It sounds silly but it’s an key idea, the TSA can’t be everywhere.

01 Jan

Schneier on Security – Full Body Scanners: What’s Next?

Once again, the TSA is covering their own asses by implementing security-theater measures to prevent the previous attack while ignoring any threats of future attacks. It’s the same thinking that caused them to ban box cutters after 9/11, screen shoes after Richard Reid, limit liquids after that London gang, and — I kid you not — ban printer cartridges over 16 ounces after they were used to house package bombs from Yemen. They act like the terrorists are incapable of thinking creatively, while the terrorists repeatedly demonstrate that can always come up with a new approach that circumvents the old measures.

The truth is that exactly two things have made air travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing cockpit doors and convincing passengers they need to fight back. The TSA should continue to screen checked luggage. They should start screening airport workers. And then they should return airport security to pre-9/11 levels and let the rest of their budget be used for better purposes. Investigation and intelligence is how we’re going to prevent terrorism, on airplanes and elsewhere. It’s how we caught the liquid bombers. It’s how we found the Yemeni printer-cartridge bombs. And it’s our best chance at stopping the next serious plot.

via Schneier on Security – Full Body Scanners: What’s Next?. Simply and beautifully put.

31 Dec

The Washington Post – One tip enough to put name on watch list

The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government’s system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab’s father had told U.S. officials of his son’s radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person’s name on the watch list.

Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.

The government’s master watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists, or databases, used by counterterrorism officials. Officials have periodically adjusted the criteria used to maintain it.

But civil liberties groups argue that the government’s new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation’s security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.

via The Washington Post – One tip enough to put name on watch list. Another in a long list of stupid over-reactions that does really nothing but close the door after the horse is out.

22 Dec

We Won’t Fly – Homeland Security Trolling We Won’t Fly Blog

I was about to delete an offensive comment on this blog – one of the very few we get – and thought, hmm, I wonder where this guy is posting from? Because, really, it is quite unusual for us to get nasty comments. Lo and behold, the troll posted to our website from an IP address controlled by the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security! Here is the taxpayer-funded troll’s gem of a comment, for your entertainment:

Fuck you, Fuck all you cocksuckers, you wont change anything. ride the bus, TSA is here to stay there doing a great job keeping americia safe.

via We Won’t Fly – Homeland Security Trolling We Won’t Fly Blog. Apparently the Department of Homeland Security employees isn’t happy with We Won’t Fly. Perhaps even better is that comments are outlandish, stupid and rude. How do these employees think they are changing anyone’s mind with this sort of commentary?

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.