Tonawanda News

Web Extras

November 12, 2012

Tricking the TSA

If, queued up at the airport — shoes half off, belt slung over your shoulder, laptop balanced precariously on one hand — you've ever looked at the speedy "pre-check" security line and wondered how easy it would be to fake your way into a less invasive screening, you would have been onto something.

The Post's James Ball reports that frequent fliers and technology geeks have discovered that the Transportation Security Administration's boarding pass procedures are bizarrely insecure, allowing those with some basic software and know-how to read sensitive security information contained in boarding pass bar codes and even to alter those bar codes. The result could be bad guys getting around tough screening or the government's no-fly list.

The bar codes contain information about how much scrutiny the TSA will give each ticket holder. But they aren't encrypted. Any passenger with a smartphone can figure out whether he or she is destined for the pre-check line, which was designed for very frequent fliers and others thought to pose few security risks, or the line for tougher screening. In theory, this could tip off a terrorist who has managed to qualify himself for pre-check to the sort of security he will have to deal with.

More troubling, though, is that it is also possible for said terrorist to fiddle with the bar code. He could place himself in the pre-check line. Or, if he is on a no-fly list, he could change the name printed on a copy of his boarding pass. That could fool the TSA agents checking tickets at security checkpoints, because they don't compare the names in the bar codes to the database of fliers that the airlines keep.

Longtime boarding pass security critic Chris Soghoian points out there are easy policy changes that can fix both problems. Requiring each bar code to bear a digital signature would make any tampering evident. The TSA already has the technology to handle this — it is just a matter of making sure the airlines cooperate. The TSA could also shake up how it decides which passengers will undergo random checks.

Text Only
Web Extras
  • Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 10.10.12 AM.png VIDEO: Dead shark found in New York subway train

    A dead shark was spotted on a train headed to Queens. It was still wet and had blood in its mouth. The sighting coincides with Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

    August 8, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • 0805-bees.jpg Ga. man survives more than 1,000 bee stings

    A Georgia man survived being stung more than 1,000 times by bees, which then attacked emergency responders who came to help, according to the man’s stepson.

    August 7, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • county-clean-fatberg-image.jpg Gross! 16.5-ton glob of fat removed from sewer system

    If you've ever wondered what happens when you ignore those warnings about pouring grease down the drain, residents of one London suburb have found the disgusting answer. It's a 16.5-ton, bus-sized glob of fat, known as a "fatberg."

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • 0805-fiery-truck-crash.jpg Video shows semi truck going airborne, bursting into flames

    Amateur video captured a fiery crash in this Indiana town, when a semi truck went airborne over a highway interchange and burst into flames.

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • iStock_000007205767XSmall.jpg Are growing pains real?

    Are growing pains real? If so, what causes them? And how do I make sure my kid never has them, because I really don't need another reason for screamy 3 a.m. wake-ups?

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • screenshot best man.jpg VIDEO: Dying boy plays best man at parents' wedding

    Looking dapper in a tiny tan pinstripe suit and orange shirt, a 2-year-old boy with only weeks to live served as the best man for his parents' Pennsylvania wedding.

    August 6, 2013 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • Screen shot 2012-12-05 at 4.31.28 PM.png VIDEO: According to trainers dogs can drive too

    Three dogs in New Zealand have been taught to drive a car. After weeks of indoor training in how to change gear, brake and steer, the canines have finally been allowed behind the wheel of a real car - with a little help from their handlers.

    December 7, 2012 1 Photo

  • HEALTH EXERCISE51.jpg Compression garments: So, does tight mean right?

    It seems that you can't head to a gym or run down your favorite trail these days without finding someone wearing compression garments.

    December 6, 2012 1 Photo

  • earth-at-night.jpg VIDEO: NASA's night view of Earth

    Weeks of work went into collecting pictures of the entire planet to create a remarkable look at night on Earth.

    December 6, 2012 1 Photo

  • 1376693_51096520.jpg Hospital incentives help babies determine own birth dates

    The evidence has been in for some time. Scheduling births may be convenient for physicians, hospitals and expectant parents, but it generally isn't good for the health of mothers and children.

    December 6, 2012 1 Photo

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Facebook
Front page
NDN Video