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Fixing Security Issue Isn't Always the Right Answer

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the lawyers-guns-and-money dept.

Security 361

Trailrunner7 writes "In a column on Threatpost, Bruce Schneier writes that the recent security breach at Newark Airport shows that fixing a given security problem isn't always the right move. 'An unidentified man breached airport security at Newark Airport on Sunday, walking into the secured area through the exit, prompting an evacuation of a terminal and flight delays that continued into the next day. This problem isn't common, but it happens regularly. The result is always the same, and it's not obvious that fixing the problem is the right solution. American airports can do more to secure against this risk, but I'm reasonably sure it's not worth it. We could double the guards to reduce the risk of inattentiveness, and redesign the airports to make this kind of thing less likely, but that's an expensive solution to an already rare problem. As much as I don't like saying it, the smartest thing is probably to live with this occasional but major inconvenience.'"

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Overreaction (1)

Akido37 (1473009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659154)

A guy wanders in through the exit, and they evacuate the terminal?

If it's really necessary to evacuate the terminal each time this happens, wouldn't it be cheaper to hire a guy to stand there to stop people from coming in?

Re:Overreaction (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659190)

If you've read the article:

"This kind of security breach is inevitable, simply because human guards are not perfect. Sometimes it's someone going in through the out door, unnoticed by a bored guard. Sometimes it's someone running through the checkpoint and getting lost in the crowd."

Re:Overreaction (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659224)

I have a friend that snuck into Estonia by going through the exit. Had an interesting time explaining on the way out how he got in :)

Re:Overreaction (0)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659304)

The local theme park has solved this problem with a turnstile gate []

Re:Overreaction (2, Insightful)

despe666 (802244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659478)

Have fun getting your luggage through that thing.

Re:Overreaction (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659806)

Have fun getting your luggage through that thing.

Your luggage has already been checked and your carry-on baggage should be of the approved size and shape to fit through, um, TSA-standard luggage receiving orifices.

Or whatever they should be called.

Re:Overreaction (2, Funny)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659828)

and your carry-on baggage should be of the approved size and shape to fit through, um, TSA-standard luggage receiving orifices.

I'll believe that when I see it.

Re:Overreaction (1)

orlanz (882574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659562)

No they haven't. I knew a couple of friends who used to get in and out of theme parks (Six Flags) quite easily during our teen years. They did beef up since then, but not enough to totally prevent the current generation.

Of course when it does happen, and the rare times the park catches them, the park doesn't go nuts over it. They do a simple benefit analysis and determine that its not worth the additional costs. Who cares if one or two people out of thousands cheat the system.

Re:Overreaction (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659588)

I say put this guy in a pillory (near the exit he snuck through at the airport) for a few weeks and sell tomatoes to bored travelers to pay for security upgrades. One way or the other this problem will get solved.

Re:Overreaction (2, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659614)

You'd need to make it *much* larger to accommodate carry-on luggage. And you'd need to put in a lot of them to make sure that people aren't standing in line for minutes to get *out* of the terminal just because a few planes disembarked at the same time. And that means making an enormously wide hallway to accommodate several over-sized turnstile gates. And because the grandma in the wheelchair still can't push through one on her own, and to allow rapid evacuation in case of an emergency, you *still* need a security guard to make sure that when grandma goes through, terrorists, or more likely, clueless travelers, don't wander through before it shuts.

Your post isn't informative, it's a poorly thought out "I could do it better" that fails to factor in real world concerns.

Re:Overreaction (2, Interesting)

ravenscar (1662985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659648)

I think there are a number of reasons a turnstyle gate isn't the right answer. For example:

1. Turnstyle gates won't work in the event of an emergency that triggers evacuation. Imagine hundreds of people trying to flee an airport terminal. Now imagine those people trying to flee said terminal through the contraption in your link. It isn't a pretty thought. Yes, they have turnstyle-like doors in other indoor buildings, but those are always accompanied by regular doors with crash bars that can be easily opened by anyone inside the building. Sure, you could add regular doors next to the turnstyle, but as soon as you have a situaion where someone on one side of a door can hold it open for someone on the other side you've lost any sense of security.

2. An emergency isn't the only case in which such doors would be an issue. Whenever I leave a terminal it seems like at least a few hundred people are leaving it with me. I can only imagine what a hinderance a turnstyle would be to such a group - especially considering luggage, disabilities, and people trying to keep groups of children together.

At the Seattle airport (SeaTac) they have what I believe are motion sensors around terminal exits (in addition to a guard(s)). These sensors can detect when someone is entering rather than exiting the terminal exit. If they detect an entrant they set off an alarm. I know that isn't a full-proof solution, but it isn't like we are really safe at an airport anyhow.

Re:Overreaction (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659206)

Seriously, if someone noticed him comming in, then confront him and send him right back the way he came; if he refuses escort him out of the area and press charges if he is truly unruly. Admit that 99.99% of the time it's going to be someone lost and/or looking for a family member and move on.

Re:Overreaction (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659270)

The problem is that the guard on the exit *didn't* notice. And the passenger who noticed wasn't allowed to go through the door, and let's face it, probably didn't relish taking the (admittedly small) chance that the person in question really was dangerous, so they found a security officer on their side of the exit to report the breach to. Of course, by then it was too late; they had video footage of the person who went through the door, but they couldn't find him. The problem wasn't that the door was unwatched, it's that every once in a while a guard is going to miss someone. They're human, they can't stare at a door for 8 or more hours straight.

Re:Overreaction (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659228)

Well, in a "sterile" security zone, one unapproved person can ruin everything. Even if you find him/her, they may have given an weapon to somebody else who was screened earlier and passed. Yep, you've got to clear out the zone, verify there's nothing hidden, then rescreen everybody.

Re:Overreaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659400)

If he had given a weapon to someone else, they probably would have already been on a plane and in there air in the 2 hours between the breach and the closing of the airport.

Re:Overreaction (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659474)

Is it even possible to "verify there's nothing hidden"? You can hide a small knife, or small bit of C4, pretty much anywhere--- taped under a bar stool, in a potted plant, etc.

Re:Overreaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659628)

and you sir, will never be allowed to fly again!

Re:Overreaction (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659646)

This is why there's a wait before the first person is let in. The staff in an airport are trained to look under every seat, etc.

Re:Overreaction (2, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659256)

wouldn't it be cheaper to hire a guy to stand there to stop people from coming in?

No, because the people who are capable of staying awake through an entire shift of this duty command very high salaries.

A turnstile (as others have suggested) would be far cheaper. But it doesn't contribute to the security theater, so its not done.

Re:Overreaction (2, Funny)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659746)

So you are saying there is a market for menacing turnstyles that intimidate people who near them?

Man: Walks toward turnstyle.
Turnstyle: Don't even think about it.
Man: Stops, looks at the turnstyle, confused.
Turnstyle: I might be electrified. Did you think of that?
Man: But... I am going through the right way!
Turnstyle: How do you know I'm programmed to care?

Re:Overreaction (3, Insightful)

tiberus (258517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659332)

Guess, that depends on how the problem occurred?!? What security measure failed and why? Is it as simple as someone just being human, lack of education?

We seem much too willing to spend too much time and money to solve problems where the cost-benefit ratio is all wrong. I want to be safe but, I want to live my life. I would like a bit more life at the cost of a bit less safety. I don't feel safer, I just feel annoyed.

Re:Overreaction (2, Interesting)

eudaemon (320983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659476)

I walked through that exit on Sunday - Continental @ Newark and there's a bored guard and a sign that reads if you pass this sign, you have to go through security again. JFK has a slightly different system where there's a huge (large enough to accommodate a person and their luggage) rotating glass door. No idea if it has a turnstile mode or if it can pushed from either side.
  Which one is really better? Not sure but the guard @ JFK seems to be paying attention anyway. Isn't a full height turnstile the easiest way to fix this?

Re:Overreaction (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659524)

a guy from Slovakia had a bomb on a plane and nobody even noticed :)

Re:Overreaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659540)

What's going to bring in more revenue to the business of government: politely guiding the lost passenger back to the correct entrance, or throwing a day-long tantrum masquerading as a DEFCON-5 disaster alert?

If there's one thing we should realize by now about the business of government, it's that spending money is the goal. Clearly, a disaster justifies more spending -- now and in the future -- than a harmless mistake.

At the top of the power pyramid, as long as the money passes through your hands, you win.

Re:Overreaction (1)

pleappleappleap (1182301) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659886)

You're thinking of DEFCON 1. DEFCON 5 is normal peacetime. DEFCON 1 is preparedness for an imminent attack.

Re:Overreaction (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659716)

I don't know what the answer is, but "terrorists" could have a field day with this. Imagine a group of a guys going through security the wrong way at a dozen major airports nationwide. The resulting delay due to evacuating everybody, screening the facility, and then rescreening everybody would result in millions if not billions of dollars worth of time and money lost. It is basically impossible to prevent this, the risks are low (this particular guy didn't get caught, and even if you do get caught you'll be out of jail in a short while), and the impact is potentially huge - majorly inconveniencing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people for half a day or more (not to mention all the lost time and money I spoke of earlier). I think this would be much more effective than any previous terrorist incidents, particularly if they did it regularly every couple of months or so.

How about a couple of.... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659158)

Why don't we take a page from other controlled-access systems and install some basic turnstiles-like gates? (With appropriate modifications so that they're not a major hassle for travelers). That would easily prevent casual, accidental intrusion, and make deliberate intrusion a little more difficult.

Re:How about a couple of.... (5, Funny)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659276)

Or waterslides! You can't climb back up those.

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659398)

That's actually a much more plausible suggestion then turnstiles, and fun. No one would object to the added security of waterslides! Think of the children! They'd love it!

Re:How about a couple of.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659720)

i used to climb back up 6 flags water slides all the time..... btw im posting this as ac so i dont wind up on a no-fly list when the ntsb actually institutes waterslides as a safety measure, as it seems just the right kind of crazy for them...

Re:How about a couple of.... (4, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659674)

Take away the "water" and you have a modest proposal which is just this side of plausible (and hilarious to boot). Want to leave the secure zone? Go down this slide! You can slide your luggage down the luggage chute, next to the passenger chute - no worse treatment than it would get if it were checked. For the elderly or wheelchair-bound, have a staffed elevator. (Bonus: revenue from tips!) And no one's going to run through that one when they're not supposed to.

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659358)

Luggage and turnstiles don't mix, hell you could just have door that don't have handles on one side and have written on the glass do not enter.

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659446)

Make the airlines remove the ridiculous charges on checked baggage, and then ban all carryon luggage that can't fit under the seat. If you can fit it under the seat, you can easily carry it over the turnstile.

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659800)

Nothing to be carried as hand luggage unless there's a medical need for it! There's an end to a HUGE amount of carry-on luggage screening right there! The time saved can be used to more thoroughly check the people and their exploding shoes and undercrackers.

Some of the cheaper airlines might not be happy as it's gonna slow down their turnaround, but maybe the airports can just get better at getting luggage in and out of the hold!

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659570)

The point isn't the turning-bar-configuration per se, it's the fact that you're trying to control access with a modicum of hardware (instead of with people). Something like BART / the DC Metro (which have the folding (/ \) configuration) would be spiffy - have two gates in a lane, and enough room between them for a luggage cart or a couple giant suitcases.

The "glass door" configuration is a simple implementation of this, and would be fine for small airports, but it could suffer at very busy airports as people hold the doors open. Plus, it's annoying to push them open, and you'll need some obnoxious ADA-compliant wheelchair-button which would also hold it open. If you want to secure a major airport with and avoid major inconveniences, you can afford to install a few automated "airlock" gates which are smarter than that.

Re:How about a couple of.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659414)

That would work but lets stop hasseling old ladies and focus more on the brown unshaven ones

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659416)

Because going through turnstiles with luggage sucks.

Re:How about a couple of.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659866)

and being evacuated out of an airport and being re-screened with EVERYONE ELSE and missing your flight doesnt?

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659810)

Turnstiles wouldn't work. How about requiring exit by passing over a moving walkway? It would constrict the flow of people to a narrower area, making it difficult to go against the flow. Luggage, even wheelchairs, would be easy to pass through, and there's less space for the guard to scan. If sensors detected anyone going the wrong way, the speed of the belt could be adjusted (increased) to keep them out. De-planed passengers would also get to the baggage claim quicker that way...

Re:How about a couple of.... (1)

dennypayne (908203) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659830)

You don't even need turnstiles. DFW has quite a few exits that are normal "push-bar" doors, and they have some sort of motion detector that senses if someone starts to walk the wrong way and sounds an alarm. The alarm will also trigger if someone begins to walk out and then turns around to go back into the terminal past the "you must continue to exit" sign. They still post a guard, but presumably they will notice the alarm pretty quickly.

It's much faster than a turnstile (DFW does have those too) and seems to work pretty well.

One-way gates (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659172)

Why is airport security a tight wall in one direction, and a totally open path the opposite way? Shouldn't there be a gate that opens if you're exiting the airport, and creates a barrier if you are coming in from the wrong side?

Re:One-way gates (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659354)

If you just use a door that only opens from one side, an intruder (accidental or otherwise) can easily go through after someone else opens the door, but before the door closes. You need a rotating full height gate that only turns one direction to fully prevent problems. Those sorts of gates are common in places where they're practical (NYC subway system for instance). But in an airport, everyone is toting around luggage of non-trivial size. You'd need to increase the size of the turnstile dramatically to allow a person and luggage to fit into one of the "slots", and that's expensive and more importantly, slow (one person takes a second or two to go through, so it would take minutes to handle even one plane full of passengers, unless you build a dozen or more of these, consuming inordinate amounts of space). Alternatively, you hire a guard on the cheap and have them make sure everyone goes the correct direction. Slightly more error prone, but faster and less space wasteful.

Re:One-way gates (1)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659516)

In most airports that I've been through, you leave the terminal to reach baggage claim. Therefore the luggage that people will have with them when exiting through a rotating door-gate would have to be "trivial in size", since it would have to fit in an overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Big luggage comes later, after leaving the "secure" gate area.

Re:One-way gates (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659688)

I have a small-to-middling duffel, as well as a small rolling case. Both fit in the overhead trivially (and I don't even have to stick them in sideways to do so, I'm not a total dick). In order to fit one through an NYC turnstile, I have to hug them to my chest and push forward at half speed or less, both because I want to avoid catching on anything (it's a real pain if the strap catches on the prongs) and because it's hard to push when your hands are holding the luggage. It's usually not a huge deal, because not too many people are carrying luggage like that. In an airport, at least half your passengers are carrying stuff like that. If you don't increase the size of the turnstile, you'll get serious clusterfucks leaving the terminal.

Re:One-way gates (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659740)

Why rotate when you can do it airlock-style?

Re:One-way gates (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659822)

In most airports that I've been through, you leave the terminal to reach baggage claim.

Not the ones here in Canada, but you do have to leave the gate area to get you luggage. To get back to the gates you would have to go back through security.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659178)

This problem isn't common but it happens regularly.

So what you are saying is that it is common?

Re:Huh? (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659226)

This problem isn't common but it happens regularly.

So what you are saying is that it is common?

No, something that happens this regularly just isn't that common.

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659252)

This problem isn't common but it happens regularly.

So what you are saying is that it is common?

Regular != common. Halley's comet makes regular appearances (every 75 years or so) but you wouldn't say it's a common occurrence, would you?

It's all relative (0, Troll)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659530)

Compared to comets striking the earth and causing global extinction events, I'd say showing up every 75 years IS a pretty comment occurence!

Here's how you fix the TSA problem (-1, Flamebait)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659218)

Every time one or more TSA employee screw up, such as letting some brainiac walk the wrong way through a checkpoint, every TSA employee on duty at that location is fired. This will work for three reasons:

1. fear is a good motivator for low salaried, low skill employees
2. fear is a good dilution agent for giant egos on low skill employees
3. its really easy to quickly hire a bunch more low salaried, low skill employees, especially in this economy (TM)

Re:Here's how you fix the TSA problem (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659272)

This won't work for one reason: The employees will fear for their jobs and not report dangerous incidents.

Re:Here's how you fix the TSA problem (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659558)

Riiiiight... because massive employee turnover is exactly what you want in a profession whose assigned task it is to protect us from terrorists, and which terrorist agents are trying to infiltrate into.

Re:Here's how you fix the TSA problem (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659676)

Not easy enough to replace the entire TSA staff at a site... you've got to run background checks on everybody who you want to hire, and that takes time. So, after a breach, you want the airport closed for a few weeks?

Re:Here's how you fix the TSA problem (2, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659684)

I've got a better solution. Change it back to where the airport screeners work for the airlines (like they did before 9/11). Then the TSA sends people out to test airport security and fines the airlines when they find security breaches.

What about lost manhours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659232)

So one incident like this actually costs much more than you think. All those delayed flights, wasted time by the TSA and Police, not to mention the thousands of hours wasted by passengers. Like a previous poster suggested, put in exit only turnstiles and such. Way cheaper. Everyone always forgets how expensive labor is, and how valuable a customer's time is.

Re:What about lost manhours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659596)

how valuable a customer's time is.

Wow, you are so 20th century. These days nobody gives a shit about customers because you either have a monopoly or all your competitors equally don't care about anyone but shareholders.

Bruce Schneie Misses the Bigger Picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659238)

And I think the best thing to do is just go ahead and mandate the insertion of radio-tracked anal probes and head branks for everyone entering the grounds of any airport in the U.S. Anyone seen on airport grounds not waddling like they've got a giant radio-tracked anal probe inserted and not wearing a giant metal brank on their head with a cast iron tongue depressor can be immediately arrested and beaten. If we don't do this, how will we make the world that our children live in safe from terrorists?

As much as I am impressed with Bruce Schnieir (I have copies of both the blue and red books and use them for reference in my work on a regular basis) I don't think he sees the real purpose of making your citizens take off their shoes whenever they travel and using high frequencies to examine their genitals. It's the ultimate power trip, and if I were in power, I'd be getting off on it too.

Death is not an inconvenience? (-1, Troll)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659240)

Yea most of the times it is some guy who accidentally went to the wrong area - but if a guy can accidentally do this, imagine if a terrorist deliberately does this? Especially if it is a flaw in our security that was stumbled upon.

It may be costly - but put it this way - how much is your mothers life worth? Your wife? Child? yourself? If a terrorist managed to bypass security and blow something up that killed someone you loved - would you say "well i understand they didn't want to spend 1 million dollars to fix the flaw, so i don't blame them for a known issue that ended up allowing my loved one to die". Security issues, once identified need to be fixed - unless you plan to use them as a trap.

Re:Death is not an inconvenience? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659434)

I knew this post was coming. Cue the histrionics.

I know it's costly to build a giant dome over the city, and the odds of a meteor hitting your mother as she walks to her car is small, but put it this way, how much is your mother's life worth? Your wife? Child? Yourself? If your kid gets splattered by a falling rock from space, would you say, "Well, I understand they didn't want to spend ten trillion dollars to fix the problem, so I don't blame them for a known issue that allowed my kid to die." Falling rocks are an issue, we need to get this fixed, whatever the cost.

Re:Death is not an inconvenience? (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659444)

"It may be costly - but put it this way - how much is your mothers life worth? Your wife? Child? yourself?"

I and they routinely risk life and limb every day driving to work or seeking medical care, and note that resources consumed by one effort are not available for others.

We are much more likely to die in an auto accident, die of hospital borne infection, or die of hospital borne infection after an auto accident than to be greased by Hadji the friendly Jihadist.

Re:Death is not an inconvenience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659496)

It may be costly - but put it this way - how much is your mothers life worth? Your wife? Child? yourself?

Nice appeal to emotion.

What is stopping said terrorist from assembling a bomb from easy-to-obtain electronic store items and household cleaners then detonating it on, lets say, a crowded subway?

Re:Death is not an inconvenience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659678)

Why, the police who search a small fraction of the people who go through one subway entrance in Grand Central one day a month. Nothing's getting by them.

Re:Death is not an inconvenience? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659708)

What's the price of freedom and liberty?

What about new airports (1)

chelberg (1712998) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659248)

It might not be cost effective for remodeling current airports, but we could do a lot better when we build new airports.

Cost computation would involve how many $$ it is worth to all those who are affected by increased delays, etc. vs. one time remodel. It might actually be cost effective to remodel. Lost wages, etc. might be enough to compensate. There aren't that many airports around.

Re:What about new airports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659838)

Impossible. Almost all airports already have trouble getting relatively small expansions approved. Building a second airport is not possible because if there was enought space, the old airport would have already expanded into it. They can also not move far because they are part of a infrastructure network consisting of highways, subways, railways, shipping lines, cities, trade fair centres, and so on.

Not to mention the bureaucratic nightmare to get a project of that size approved; which would take literally decades.

Regularly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659250)

Regularly, like the 12th day of each month? Or January 10th every year?

Perfectly secure airport (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659330)

Passengers book flight online, and program their flight int an RFID tags.
Passengers enter the airport naked, and in small groups. No worldly possessions will be allowed.
Muslims are winnowed at this stage.
(The last mile must be walked to the terminal because of the dragons teeth protecting the airport from demo-trucks.)

Passengers are rendered unconscious using anaesthetic gas.
Robotic staff, load the unconscious passengers into special crates that deal with feeding and excretion.
Passengers are hooked up to neutral interface, and last years crappy films are played directly into their minds.

In case of emergency, all crates have auto-ejectors. First-class passenger crates have parachutes.

Re:Perfectly secure airport (5, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659382)

Passengers are hooked up to neutral interface

It was a good idea until this part. I think the interfaces should be highly opinionated.

Re:Perfectly secure airport (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659424)

Passengers... program their flight into RFID tags. Passengers enter the airport naked... Great -- so where am I supposed to carry my RFID tags? Up my ass?!? I can't -- it's already full of explosives!

Re:Perfectly secure airport (1)

arnwald (468380) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659526)

> Passengers are hooked up to neutral interface, and last years crappy films are played directly into their minds.

You mean 'last years crappy commercials' are projected directly into their minds.


Re:Perfectly secure airport (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659638)

Someone on the inside messes up the crates so people can't get back out. \(_o)/

Bomb(!) on a plane flight few days ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659340)

Our government fucked us again:

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659342)


This problem isn't common, but it happens regularly.

Yes. And as a /.er, I don't commonly have sex, but I have sex regularly.

Re:Huh? (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659624)

Do you mean at evenly spaced time intervals, or do you mean in the commonly accepted way of having sex ?

US Airports suck for security (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659386)

Sorry folks but the US airport system was designed for a time when there was no threat of terrorism and planes were basically just a fast Greyhound solution. Having a single Exit (as is common at most European airports) which means a single guard can stop people entering means that its extremely rare to have this happen at a European airport. This is the "advantage" of having airports that are primarily designed for international travel and so the exit is where customs also resides.

Crap security, appalling immigration staff and an inefficiency of process that is so bad that someone must have sat down and designed it deliberately.

So I disagree with the much more educated writer in the article. It really isn't hard to fix, its something that most other first world countries have done as a core part of their airport design.

US Security as embodied by the department of Homeland security is a complete joke at every single level, from not listening to intelligence from abroad to woeful and officious security at airports. It really is a George W Bush of a department.

Re:US Airports suck for security (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659568)

He didn't say it would be hard to fix, he said it probably isn't worth spending loads of money on a small problem.

Re:US Airports suck for security (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659778)

Sorry, but European-style airports really wouldn't have fixed this. I like European airports better because they look and work exactly like any other airport in the world but they have less of a security theatre and are easier and faster to process through.

Actually, for US-bound planes most airports in Europe (except for the really big ones like BRU, AMS and CDG) have to implement a make-shift corridor for American-style #ITA security screenings. If you ever have the opportunity to go to eg. Crete or an ex-Soviet Bloc country by plane you'll see what I mean. The only security there is a beeping metal detector and a military/police officer waving you through looking really annoyed that you actually stopped because of the beeping.

Re:US Airports suck for security (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659840)

Sorry folks but the US airport system was designed for a time when there was no threat of terrorism

There is still little REAL threat of terrorism. One taser-armed sky marshall per plane and good cockpit doors could replace all the expensive security theater and actually make you safer, instead of making you think you're safer.

Plus, your odds of dying in a plane crash caused by equipment failure or human error are vastly higher than your odds of dying at the hands of terrorists.

Ultimate Security Solution (3, Funny)

blcamp (211756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659404)

Just ban everyone from airplanes altogether. Problem solved.

(It seems as if we're heading down that road, really...)

That's a really stupid idea! (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659406)

The fact that a routine error can cause major institution like an airport to grind to a halt is a sign that its operating procedure needs to be revised. It's stupid to just live with it when there are alternatives

For example, there's been a lot of recent talk about updating our airport screening to look more like Israel's [] , where they've been thinking about terrorism a bit harder and longer than we have. I'm sure there are other alternatives too. However, remember that the point of terrorism is to cause fear and economic loss to industrialized countries, and to bait us into a self-destructive overreaction. By that standard, they guy who walked through the wrong gate pulled off a pretty impressive piece of terrorism, at basically no real risk to himself. You don't want to enshrine a system where this sort of exploit is possible, or else every group with a quibble can hold an airport hostage.

Re:That's a really stupid idea! (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659820)

Thank you for the link. It was fascinating. I have heard about Israels calm, rational security, but didn't know the details...

Door Handle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659464)

Why is it that this door can be opened from the outside?

Re:Door Handle? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659704)

Because there is no door. In all but one airport that I've been in in the US, the path between the "secure area" and the rest of the airport consisted of a very long hallway for everyone to line up in with a rope or short banister down the middle. People entering the "secure area" kept to one side, people leaving were on the other.

Even if there was a door with no handles on the outside, it would have to open in order to let people out, at which point someone could walk right in anyway.

Turnstiles are a nice thought, but the problem is most of them are too small to get luggage through the turnstile.

That one exception I mentioned was O'Hare. There, a large revolving glass door (wide enough for me, my luggage, my coat, and the carryon I was dragging) was put up for exiting from the secure area. A large wired-up floor mat on the "wrong" side of the door made it pretty clear that if I had tried to go "backwards" through the revolving door, it would stop and probably sound an alarm to let everyone know I'm trying to sneak into the security area.

The whole thing is nuts (3, Insightful)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659482)

We've had airport security for decades. When did it start? Early seventies? The only time we needed airport security to work, it didn't. Why do we have to shut down an entire airport because one hapless person entered the wrong room? It's a terrible over-reaction, making us all look like wusses. It's like seeing people freak out because they see a spider. Big deal. Take the spider outside, end of story. No evancualtions. No freak-outs. No delays.

The thing is, the last time we had a real incident, at Christmas, the guy managed to get on and do everything necessary to kill a few hundered people. Only the incompetence of the bomb maker saved the plane and the guy burned his nuts.

So what did we do? Throw him in jail. Get him lawyered up so he won't talk, and THEN our illustrious Czar of Homeland Security gets up and says, "The system worked."

WTF????? Just WHAT about the system worked? What is she smoking?

It did NOT work. It was epic fail. With all these regulatons, with all this taking your shoes off, go through the detectors, 3 oz of liquid max, the delays, evacuations, and freak outs over nothing, the system still is epic fail.

Re:The whole thing is nuts (5, Interesting)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659696)

Not only that, but I heard a radio phone in show today where a TSA spokesman was asked why we never hear reports of successes. The response was that the TSA had been successful thousands of times in preventing people from traveling. Is that the sole purpose of the TSA, to find plausible reasons to prevent or delay people from traveling ? If their measure of success is the number of people that they prevent from reaching their destination, then they are Al Qaeda's greatest asset.

Re:The whole thing is nuts (1)

dosilegecko (1609441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659788)

I don't really understand how he survived to make it to jail. I would have personally bashed him to bits right there on the plane. I probably would not have stopped until he was in liquid form. These cowardly terrorists should be more afraid of observant U.S. citizens. Seriously, how did he make it off that plane alive? A lawyer? WTF!? EPIC FAIL AGREED!

I've got it... (2, Interesting)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659486)

One of those moving walk ways that moves only in the direction of the exit and completely fills the width of the exit corridor. When someone is detected trying to walk the opposite direction, it can speed up a little and wake up the guard who is posted - because there is always already a guard posted. This would be less obstructive than a turnstile door/gate which is a pain to pass luggage, wheelchairs, children's strollers, etc. through.

Re:I've got it... (1)

bratloaf (1287954) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659594)

I just posted the same idea but you beat me to it by 1 second... Seem so simple.

Wait, haven't I heard this before? (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659500)

"Fixing security issues isn't always the right answer." Haven't I heard this before... from Microsoft?

Simple solution - Peoplemovers at the exits. (2, Interesting)

bratloaf (1287954) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659550)

Although I agree the investment is probably not worth it at most airports, at places like the big 3 in NYC, O'Hare, Boston, etc, it would be fairly easy to put a "peoplemover" at the exit to the concourse. I.e. get on the moving belt, ride out of the exit door. To "accidentally" go the wrong way would be HIGHLY unlikely. They already have these things all over the airports, just install a few (side by side?) at the exits. Let the guards and cameras sit there and watch. Hell, a camera could use motion detection to flag/alarm if it detected a "person" or object going the wrong way any significant distance....

Increasing ~= Fixing (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659580)

I hadn't heard about this, but the article linked in the article says this:

"Officials took the action after a man was observed walking the wrong way down the exit lane between the secured, or "sterile," area and the public area at around 5:20 p.m"

I haven't done a lot of air travel, but to me this isn't necessarily a breach. The man could easily have just left his flight, heading for the baggage claim area only to realize he dropped or left something on the plane and was heading back.

So, the first problem is that they don't know. Presumably there are cameras on these areas, so look at the recordings and find out where he came from. If he came from the plane (or any secure area), and simply turned around to go back where he came from, there's no reason to suspect a breach.

If he did come the wrong way through a one way door, or similar, then yes there was a security breach. Increasing the number of guards isn't a fix, its simply reducing the chances that this will happen again. As others have mentioned, one way, full height turnstiles are a possibility. You may have to deal with luggage, but that can be done with larger turnstiles. If turnstiles can accommodate wheelchairs, they can accommodate luggage carried by most flyers. Those with exceptionaly large items may need to be escorted through a separate corridor.

My point is, Bruce's two options (redesigning airports and increasing security guards) are both impractical, but there may be other options available. And (as others have mentioned) learning from this and applying those lessons to future airport designs SHOULD be done.

Re:Increasing ~= Fixing (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659856)

actually, another article I read did mention that they had cameras in the area, but that they belonged to the airline. The article talked about how the TSA has no cameras, and if they see one, and need to access it, it can take hours to get the approvals and access. Seems it would be simple to put a few camera's around the airport, especially at the chokepoints...

Bruce, you're out of your comfort zone (0, Troll)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659598)

Since when does being an expert on digital communications security automatically qualify you as an expert on passenger screening? Unfortunately, unlike data packets, passengers don't behave according to logical rules.

Re:Bruce, you're out of your comfort zone (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659814)

I disagree. Mr. Schneier has written at least one entire book, IIRC, on social issues surrounding security. After 'Applied Cryptography', he realized that any good crypto system is useless if the surrounding system, which includes the people and their behaviours, isn't taken into account.

I suspect he's done more thinking on these topics than nearly anyone posting in this thread, including myself...

Big one-way powered revolving doors (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659702)

The solution to wrong-way passenger traffic is known - big one-way powered three-leaf revolving doors. [] LAX has had those for decades. They're just very large revolving doors, big enough for several people or a cart, which rotate slowly and are powered by weak motors. But if somebody enters the wrong side, they stop moving, and if necessary back up a little to let the bozo out. Sometimes somebody gets trapped and alarms go off, although this takes some effort.

There are other revolving-door arrangements for employee entrances, some resembling full-height subway turnstiles.

An installation like that probably pays for itself if it prevents one incident which requires closing down an entire terminal.

It is all about Cost Benefit Analysis (1)

root777 (1354883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659724)

If you treat it like a business problem and do a cost/benefit analysis which is what Schneier is suggesting, it may turn out to be true in this case where the cost to fix the security hole is far too expensive to cover the risk. This is common for many large businesses where they may treat the lives of people in their Data Center and hence put additional physical security controls there vs. someplace else as part of their Business Continuity/ Disaster Recovery threat assessment process. It is always a tough thing to do when you ask the question on how do you place a value to human life. The airforce puts a value on the cost to replace a pilot vs. a plane but how do you place something similar to a passenger.

Re:It is all about Cost Benefit Analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30659818)

I had the same thought, and while I don't see this happening, I hypothesized that the solution would be to require the TSA to pay travelers a sort of "inconvenience fee". Get delayed because of a shutdown? $10/hr/passenger. Plane gets rerouted because of something else? $100/passenger. Somebody can come up with reasonable numbers, I'm just making those up. The point is, right now there is no direct cost to the people making the call to evacuate the terminal, and by creating one, it might add balance to the cost/benefit equation.

reprisals (1)

Silpher (1379267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659750)

Offer flight as a bus service under one condition: In case of a terrorist attack an ICBM will fly to his religious point of most interest (Earthly!). As the terrorist will be responsible for the downfall of his own religion he could get second thoughts ( as for the atheist terrorists if there are any. Dawkins will get fed to the pigs).

Sep 11 (4, Insightful)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30659836)

I take it a step further.

The security theater that has been implemented since 2001 has raised the cost (in dollars, time and convenience) of air travel enough to divert enough travelers to the nations highways that I posit that we as a nation have suffered more death and injury than had we reacted to the Sep 11 attacks by literally doing nothing at all.

We kill more people on the roads annually than more than 15 such attacks would have done.

Meanwhile, UBL's grand master plan stopped working even before the last airplane was grounded that day - the passengers found out that the rules (give hijackers what they want and you get out alive) had changed and the last plane did not make its target. And because everybody knows the new rules of engagement, that plan will never work again - regardless of any changes (or lack thereof) in government policy.

There are exactly 3 things necessary for airport security:

1. Make sure that no luggage gets on the plane without its associated passenger (you can't blow up the plane without going along for the ride).

2. Metal detectors to keep guns out. The alternative is allowing anybody to carry, thus insuring the entire plane will wind up swiss cheese if any funny business starts. That's a less than positive outcome, IMHO.

3. Lock and bar the cockpit doors for the flight's duration.

And for extra credit

4. Research applying the military's UAV technology to the air transport system. If enough improvements can be made in assuring positive aircraft control, there's no reason the flight deck as we know it needs to exist on the plane at all.

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