We’ve always thought that the TSA security process at airports was cumbersome and ineffective, and to a great degree “theater” aimed to increase the fear that terrorists might be caught, rather than to actually solve the problem. For a number of years, we’ve wondered how effective the “hands-up” backscatter radiation scanning systems actually were.
New research conducted by a team from the University of California San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University indicates that our fears were indeed correct, these machines are easily defeated. The research can be found here. Apparently, both weapons and explosives could be quite easily be brought aboard aircraft by those with knowledge of TSA’s procedures and how to properly conceal them.
Of course, even with this knowledge now public, TSA hasn’t changed procedures to require the side scans that could reveal weapons hidden on a body. What’s worse, the firm of a former TSA head later lobbied for the implementation of this system, without disclosing Rapiscan as a client, has at least the sniff of impropriety. The linked article in the Huffington Post indicated known skepticism regarding the ability of the machines to detect threats before they were purchased.
Where does that leave us today? Published research on how to beat the current system is now available on the internet, and can be readily found by those wishing to do harm. Those of us in the industry have seen the security holes for some time. Now the rest of the world also knows.