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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I was very sad to see the state of security at AZO. On Christmas Eve, the person doing the positive ID to boarding pass correlation left their post, and was replaced by another employee. The replacement said, “alright, who’s next?” I am an honest person, and I said that I had not yet been screened, and the person in front of me had. The other TSA personnel on the belt said “uh, I think it was that guy” pointing behind me. Now, it would have required a very careful manipulation of timing in the screening pipeline to pull off the injection, but were I dishonest or evil, I could have entered the air transport system without ever having a positive ID check (via phone reservation changes and automated checkin machines).

Obviously, the real problem is that the TSA personnel were incompetent and lazy, and were not doing their job as required. Being sloppy about this sort of thing is a good reason to lose your job, and I believe they were compromising our nation’s security and should be fired. Well, that is, I would if I felt that the current travel regulations made any sort of sense. Indefinite code orange FTL.

That’s because, ever since I was at Whirlpool where I wrote my first e-commerce site, I’ve believed the philosophy that at least one layer of security is always going to be compromised. There is no second-phase positive ID check in this system, so there is no reason to believe identity is ever verified. Easy fix? Use two-phase checks — check positive pass to ID correlation after a successful pass through the magnetometer.

On the other hand, I’m still not entirely convinced that identity is really a problem in the air transit system, if physical security is also good. The risk comes in when physical security checks also fail. Again, we’re talking about a pretty contrived situation, needing a sophisticated social engineering attack as well as a lot of luck, just to achieve identity-free injection into the transit system via a backwoods spoke. But it’s a vulnerability.