2006/10/28

Security Theater - Feeling Safe vs. Being Safe

While the US government forces our allies to jump on the RFID passport bandwagon, making us demonstrably less private and arguably less safe, a graduate student and computer security specialist at Indiana University Bloomington demonstrates the easiest way for bad guys to slip past TSA and onto an aircraft.

Can you guess? He created a program and a website that produces fake boarding passes, identical to the real thing--good enough, in fact, to get you by TSA, though maybe not actually onto an airplane -
I don't want to help terrorists or help bad guys do bad things on airplanes, but what we have now is what we in the industry call 'security theater.' It's made to make you think you're secure without actually making you secure...

Christopher Soghoian
Unfortunately for Mr. Soghoian (and for us) the government has taken a dim view of this demonstration. Representative Edward Markey (D MA), a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee who would rather shoot the messenger than deal with the vulnerability, has called for Soghoian's arrest. And the FBI seems willing to comply, raiding Soghoian's home twice in 48 hours. Oddly though, nobody is calling for the arrest of Senator Charles Schumer (D NY), who suggested this very scenario over a year ago or any of the airline executives whose companies do let you print your boarding passes ahead of time.

Predictably, the homeland security establishment seems more interested in covering their asses by silencing the sane voices of experts than they are in actually making us more safe.

Had enough yet?

16 Comments:

As one who makes a couple trips a year or more, to California, I can tell you airport security is one big F****** joke! When they were in the "take off your shoes" craze, I used to wear a pair of socks for about three days until they were really ripe, bag them in a ziplock, then don them for the trip. My wife made me quit doing that, but I damn sure passed some shoe inspections in record times!:) Time after time after time, sneak inspections continue to get just as many guns, knives, etc. through security as before 9/11. "If you make it harder for them, they will think we're doing something good."
I'm sure there are a lot of righties who would like to arrest Charles Schumer, and the real reason is probably because they know he is way smarter than they are, and they can't stand somebody who openly exposes and criticizes them for shortcomings they know they have, but don't want the public to be aware of.

Hmmmm.... silencing the sane voices of experts... sounds like what they do with global warming science, embryonic stem cell science, just science in general. An incurious and uneducated public is much easier to control, so they don't like smart people or anyone who wants thoughtful discussions of issues. Hell, people like that are guilty of treason simply for disagreeing!

TFWY, I love the idea about stinky socks. I can imagine the expressions on peoples' faces as they had to examine something like an old sneaker that had been inhabited by ripe feet in ripe socks!!
I need to try the socks thing too! What a great idea.

I have had issues with TSA. I have been flying for a long time. Until TSA, I never had any problems with things being taken from my suitcase. Not security threat items.

I "lost" a good pair of sunglasses on one trip, and then on another trip it was a small digital camera.

It's my belief they were stolen. I know that sounds both tacky and petty, but both flights were around the same time of day and both were from the same airport (SEA).

Maybe just a little bit of larceny there.

I also a couple of occassions where I had to bitch their people out at the security checkpoint. I could elaborate, but in the interest of sticking to topic, I won't (if anyone is interested in the details e-mail me).

Sure does make you feel safe when you have to deal with incompetent a-holes.
Shoes, liquids, belts...you'd think that we were going into a goddamned MRI for Pete's sake!

I guess what tweak's me off the most is that they have a known vector of attack--I mean what idiot couldn't have identified faked boarding passes as an issue--and they refuse to deal with it, refuse to deal with the airlines who've practically given us the tools to do it ourselves.

Gee...could I mess with a PDF file or an image...let's see... Where did I put that copy of Photoshop?
This all seems like too much trouble to me. We all saw the CNN report on the .50BMG. Who needs bording passes, why even go within a mile of the airport?
The only thing I take from this article is that I've been wasting my money collecting "frequent flyer miles," when all I had to do was invest in a decent printer!
You know Fred the guy who did the boarding pass generator said that the thought that most people would use such a thing to give themselves upgrades. So maybe it wasn't all that dangerous after all...NOT!

Rex...see the above comment.
The illusion of safety is all that matters to these folks. Apparently, we also only have the illusion of liberty and the illusion of freedom as well.
I saw that fake boarding pass article too. The illusion of safety is a lot like the snake oils the carbet baggers used to foist on the settlers as we moved west two centuries ago....and the folks who sell us the pseudosafetey are not remotely better.
They don't like it when we demonstrate their weaknesses. You'd think they would be glad to know about them, but then we are talking about the Gee Oh Pee.
So while we're all on the subject of illusions... Any chance that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are just illusions? No? We really did spend that 1/2 a trillion dollars? Crap! Guess we couldn't get that lucky.
That student embarassed the TSA, which explains the government's severe reaction. They should be thanking him for bringing it to their attention but they're more worried about their image than our safety.
In BushWorld, so many things are now merely illusions. Freedom theater, security theater, nation isn't bankrupt theater, etc...
Things are becoming so Orwellian, that I cease to be amazed anymore.
This shouldn't be surprising. This story just makes the obvious even more obvious: It's all smoke and mirrors. Appearances are all that matter.
Mike, Snave: My idea does NOT win friends in line ahead, or behind, you. Nor does washing your feet in the bathroom sink so you can stand youself on the flight.:) But I wish I had my digital when those bleepholes picked up my shoes for inspection....priceless!!
Kathy...you'd think that with a job as important as Homeland Security that the forces that be would recognize the need to get by embarassment. Sadly, it's not so...

Tom, Tina...it begs the question: Would we have been safter if the departments under DHS had been kept separate?

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