Airport security part 1: Bluetooth, switchblades and -- wireless X-rays?

Airport security part 1: Bluetooth, switchblades and -- wireless X-rays?

Summary: Airport security is obviously a major concern in our country, and I've made some observations that I'd like to share from my recent travels.February and March has turned out to be an insane travelling road show for me.


Airport security is obviously a major concern in our country, and I've made some observations that I'd like to share from my recent travels.

February and March has turned out to be an insane travelling road show for me. When March completes, I will have spoken at Black Hat twice (Washington D.C. and Amsterdam), met with numerous clients in Indiana, Minnesota, California, and Seattle, travelled to Houston a number of times to catch up with the Ernst & Young Advanced Security Center guys (where I'm employed), and somewhere in that mix I actually went snowboarding in Utah.

What I've learned during this time is that I hate flying.

Also, I noticed several things that really concern me about airport security. The following events occurred at various airports during my travels:

  • Other people's Mac books trying to bluetooth associate to mine
  • A passenger try to go through the security line with pretty much every personal care product that you could imagine, a knife (I swear, it was a switchblade and it was in his carry on), and something that looked like a mini car battery
  • A wireless access point near the X-ray machines called 'bagcheck'
  • A pilot entered the airport in a random hallway through a door that looked like an emergency exit that actually led to a parking lot
  • etc.

People's Mac books trying to Bluetooth associate to mine was slightly disconcerting as I had recently enabled it to pull a file from a friend at Black Hat. Fortunately I still had confirmation notices that didn't allow a file to be uploaded to me, but I certainly turned Bluetooth back off shortly thereafter.

The passenger with the switchblade and mini car battery (or whatever it was) was directly in front of me. I always feel bad for the TSA folks when I have to unload my three laptops, portable hard drive, wireless antenna, etc. but this guy was angry that they made such a big deal about his switchblade. (By the way, he wasn't even kind enough to bag up his personal care products.) Then the lady pulls out this battery thing and security guys swoop in and carry the guy away. It was a bit surreal.

Clearly if the wireless 'bagcheck' network is what it looks like, one would think it is a terrible idea to connect the X-ray machines, etc. to a wireless network. What was really concerning was that there was a lot of traffic on the network, so even though it was using WEP, I would likely have had enough traffic to actually crack the key. I'm still pretty stunned by this. I'll only speculate as to what would've been possible. As they say, curiosity killed the cat, and I do value my life :).

The pilot just walking in through a random emergency exit door is probably the scariest of the bunch. There was this parking lot I could see outside the door when he came in, and it wasn't even all fenced in or anything. I'd like to hope that not just anyone can drive to this location, but it would seem pretty simple to get a pilot outfit, wait in the parking lot for a legitimate pilot to come in and just piggy back his entry. No security check occurred.

With all this in mind, it's absurd that I had to throw away my hair gel since it was 5 oz. and not 4 oz.


Topics: Hardware, Networking, Security, Wi-Fi

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  • Post ID

    I just realized that the ID for my post is 911... coincidence or conspiracy???
  • RE: Airport Security Concerns

    first the fancy outfit at black hat dc. now hair gel. oy.

    Ryan Naraine
    • Hey Ryan, What's going on

      How is life over at eWeek?
    • RE: RE: Airport Security Concerns

      What can I say, I'm a pretty boy, Ryan. They took my cologne too!
  • Actually, it isn't my concern

    I would be more concerned about my right of privacy. But the majority of the United States has decided to live in fear for the last 6 and a half years. Good for them.

    I would rather be able to get on a plane without having to spend 20 minutes going through security checks. If a plane blows up with my Family or myself on board due to terrorist activity, it will be because we live in a proud country that others are jealous of, not because we live in fear of them. They should fear us and what we can do to them if they upset us, not the other way around.

    I personally think this country has turned into a bunch of cowards scared by our own media who is too busy sensationalizing instead of informing.
    • ...

      Hear hear! Spoken like a true patriot! ]:)
      Linux User 147560
    • To paraphrase:

      Those who sacrafice liberty for securty deserve neither.

      - Ben Franklin
      • Excuse me, but...

        ... how do you associate security checks at airports require with you sacrificing your liberty?
        Hallowed are the Ori
        • Damn trackpad....

          That was SUPPOSED to be:

          how do you associate required security checks at airports with sacrificing one's liberty?
          Hallowed are the Ori
          • RE: Damn trackpad...

            Yeah, agreed... while I love the quote and reference, these are two very different kinds of security and liberty.
          • Wait until pictures start showing up on the web ...

            of your daughter walking through the backscatter xray machine and being snapped essentially naked by a bunch of TSA goons. What, you didn't know that the BXR machines archived the images they take? Yes they do ... for "evidence" and training purposes.
            terry flores
          • Have you been singled out?

            Have you had difficulty getting through the security checkpoints. Have you had to pass through 3 metal/bomb detectors and be padded down just to see a national monument?

            Perhaps you should travel a little bit and see how much has changed, how we are more restricted. I heard we took our former freedoms for granted, but I had no idea until we lost many of them.

            And now we have bills passing through congress that they want to monitor more and more. They want to tap phone lines and email and more.
          • Yes, I have.

            [i]Have you had difficulty getting through the security checkpoints. Have you had to pass through 3 metal/bomb detectors and be padded down just to see a national monument?[/i]

            Yes, I have. Several times in fact.

            And again, I ask, how is that associated with you having to give up any of your liberties or freedoms?
            Hallowed are the Ori
          • .....

            It also goes against the very principle of the Constitution. The 4th amendment spells it out, "[I][U] The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures[/U], shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[/I]"

            Right now the 4th Amendment is being violated, why? Because we are being searched without probable cause. Probable cause means there is evidence that an individual or group has been identified positively to be in possession of an illegal item. That item MUST be specified in the search warrant.

            The searches and seizures by the TSA are un-warranted and the items confiscated pose no credible threat. As far as I am concerned my 4th Amendment right has been violated and is being trampled. Don't Tread On Me! ]:)
            Linux User 147560
    • RE: Actually, it isn't my concern

      You're right, media has sensationalized everything to a crazy degree... the worst part is, we're so worried about perceived threats that sometimes we don't even see the real ones right in front of us.
  • RE: Airport Security Concerns

    Forget a stinger missle, there was a special on the television not long ago where they showed that a 50 caliber rifle can penetrate an airplanes frame. That's what's really scary, cause it is probably more feasible.
    • ...

      That makes sense since the .50 is used for light armor penetration AND go back to WWII... what caliber were the majority of our air craft guns? .50 cal. A modern airliner would be very prone to a hit BUT it would need multiple hits to be effective. With the stingers it's a simple lock, fire, forget, watch the show. ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • Forget the stinger missle

        Look how many people are waiting in the ticket line. Just as spectacular (and easier), to walk in with a 'special' jacket. Hitting multiple airports at once would be more effective a tactic than a stinger missle attack. After all, no one is checked that soon (and it's really impossible to do so).

        I tell my dad all the time though - I'd rather die in a terrorist attack then let our freedoms be eaten away by fear and paranoia.
        • Also

          I spend way too much time thinking about worse case scenarios and how to survive them XD I get bored easily when I'm out of the house.

          I mean, if I can think of this stuff, someone else with malicious intent has, too, and you can only hope the people charged with protecting us have as well.
    • Airplanes are fragile things in some ways

      I've read a number of risk-assessment papers over the years about the enormous variety of weapons that can be used against an aircraft taking off with a full load of fuel. Probably the most outlandish: a truck or van releasing hundreds of pigeons or blackbirds at the end of a runway as a jet is taking off, the theory being that enough would get sucked into the engines to cause loss of power and a stall.

      Anyway, if you see a large truck near the airport with a zillion birds in it, don't get on the airplane. Personally, I couldn't imagine anybody brave enough to endure the smell ...
      terry flores