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Ask Slashdot: Is TSA's PreCheck System Easy To Game?

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the it's-probably-a-crime dept.

Encryption 157

OverTheGeicoE writes "TSA has had a preferred traveler program, PreCheck, for a while now. Frequent fliers and other individuals with prior approval from DHS can avoid some minor annoyances of airport security, like removing shoes and light jackets, but not all of the time. TSA likes to be random and unpredictable, so PreCheck participants don't always get the full benefits of PreCheck. Apparently the decision about PreCheck is made when the boarding pass is printed, and a traveler's PreCheck authorization is encoded, unencrypted, on the boarding pass barcode. In theory, one could use a barcode-reading Web site (like this one, perhaps) to translate a barcode into text to determine your screening level before a flight. One might even be able to modify the boarding pass using PhotoShop or the GIMP to, for example, get the screening level of your choice. I haven't been able to verify this information, but I bet Slashdot can. Is TSA's PreCheck system really that easy to game? If you have an old boarding pass lying around, can you read the barcode and verify that the information in TFA is correct?"

cancel ×

157 comments

Yes (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825489)

Yes it is.

Re:Yes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825579)

Agreed. Thread over.

Re:Yes (4, Funny)

Spiridios (2406474) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825645)

Way to get every /. member on the no fly list.

Re:Yes (4, Interesting)

gmanterry (1141623) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826071)

Way to get every /. member on the no fly list.

It's probably dangerous to even comment on this article. It's probably a Homeland SecurityTSA sting.

Re:Yes (1)

Teancum (67324) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827027)

If the guys at the TSA haven't even bothered to get other government security experts like the guys at the NSA to review their strategy and how these tickets are encoded, it seems like these guys need a few basic lessons in computer science and should go back to college as freshmen.

As a sting, this is pretty hopeless.

Re:Yes (2)

UncleTogie (1004853) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827311)

As a sting, this is pretty hopeless.

Naah, just needs the right media spin.

"A renegade group considered to be 'The Apostles of Bruce Schneier' were caught plotting to manipulate airline tickets for domestic flights.. TSA cavity search and film at 11...."

Re:Yes (1)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827503)

... and should go back to college as freshmen.

What makes you think they went to college before being hired at the TSA?

Re:Yes (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826527)

Did you notice, how I was able to get in "at the front of the line" on this discussion thread?

Re:Yes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825691)

You have broken the law of headlines. The answer is obviously NO.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825727)

Yes it is.

Wrong question is being asked

A better question is -- Would it matter if TSA PreCheck System were easy to game?

Seeing how TSA has no record of ever catching or thwarting a terrorist, I would say "no"

Re:Yes (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826059)

Seeing how TSA has no record of ever catching or thwarting a terrorist, I would say "no"

Well, they're semi-effective at catching TSA employees who steal iPads, laptops and expensive camera gear.

I mean, the thought of some low-level thug making off with a $1k piece of glass terrifies the hell out of me.

Re:Yes (5, Interesting)

Joe Decker (3806) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826425)

Well, they're semi-effective at catching TSA employees who steal iPads, laptops and expensive camera gear.

No, they're not. There are occasional busts, but most go unreported or unaddressed.

Fun fact: The TSA refuses to report such thefts to local authorities, as a matter of policy.

Re:Yes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41827663)

Wow. Reminds me of the Catholic Church.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826063)

Wrong question is being asked

A better question is -- Would it matter if TSA PreCheck System were easy to game?

Seeing how TSA has no record of ever catching or thwarting a terrorist, I would say "no"

No, neither question is really relevant. It doesn't matter if the system is easy to game for someone with technical aptitude because this whole system isn't really about making travel more secure, but conditioning people to be more complacent about government intrusion and restriction on their daily lives.

Re:Yes (5, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826505)

" this whole system isn't really about making travel more secure, but conditioning people to be more complacent about government intrusion and restriction on their daily lives."

DING DING DING DING DING!

Ladies and gentlemen, please lower your bids. We have a winner.

Re:Yes (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826515)

this whole system isn't really about making travel more secure, but conditioning people to be more complacent about government intrusion and restriction on their daily lives.

Parallel to that, army and police have been having Zombie Apocalypse training lately. Training them to fight crowds of unarmed human-shaped figures. Considering the lack of real zombies, I wonder what that's supposed to condition the army and police for...

Re:Yes (0)

lcampagn (842601) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826533)

I am not a fan of the TSA, but let's be fair here: the purpose of doing security checks is not to catch terrorists with bombs in their shoes, but rather to eliminate shoe-bombing as a viable form of attack. The expectation is that anyone going to the effort to hijack a plane will have good knowledge of security procedures, so it is not really possible to say whether the TSA has prevented any terrorist attacks.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826649)

I am not a fan of the TSA, but let's be fair here: the purpose of doing security checks is not to catch terrorists with bombs in their shoes, but rather to eliminate shoe-bombing as a viable form of attack.

The problem is, there are a large (but not technically infinite) number of such attacks. With the TSA only re-acting to the threat as it is used, that means there are (largeNum -1) attacks remaining. So, with such a large number of attacks to choose from, any terrorist would have no problem with the TSA.

In other words, the TSA only started checking shoes after someone tried to hide a bomb in one. The TSA only started their asinine 3-1-1 liquid rules after a liquid bomb plot was uncovered. And no doubt, the TSA will start rectal exams after a terrorist shoves a bomb up their ass.

Responding to the PREVIOUS threat is not security.

Re:Yes (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826841)

Not entirely correct. The TSA checks at airports are only one part of the security system. There are other activities within the security system that are looking for new potential threats - the airport checks are not where that battle is being fought.

What would be your response if a liquid bomb threat was discovered and then the TSA did nothing to screen for it? Everyone would be screaming their heads off that the TSA should be checking for known threats. It is absurd to try to claim that the TSA airport checks are not security.

Do I think that the TSA has gone too far in terms of infringing on the rights of people who are not terrorists? Yes. I think they are too concerned with being accused of missing something and have therefore trampled on everyone's toes.
Do I think that the TSA is not helping in terms of deterring terrorist attacks on airplanes? No. You have to have airport checks, and those checks have to respond to threats that are detected by other parts of the security network.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827103)

What would be your response if a liquid bomb threat was discovered and then the TSA did nothing to screen for it? Everyone would be screaming their heads off that the TSA should be checking for known threats. It is absurd to try to claim that the TSA airport checks are not security.

Not everybody is screaming for increased authority being given to the TSA to declare martial law in airports. Too far? I think it was too far on September 10th, 2001, as the security procedures in pace prior to the 9/11 attacks should have stopped those terrorists from getting on board those planes in the first place as well as stopping even the shoe bomber.

These guys are simply being lousy rent-a-cops that really don't know the first thing about how to act as a law enforcement agency in a once free representative democracy. It is sad that they can't simply act like almost every other police agency acting outside of those airports and *gasp* actually investigate crimes when they happen, to do gum shoe detective work, and root out would be criminals who might be causing problems. I also think this "zero tolerance" for terrorist actions is maddening as well.

The real issue here is that stupid people do stupid things. We can't afford to have TSA level security in malls, public schools, banks, or elsewhere. Certainly not in bus stations or on freeways. In reality we can't afford to have this in airports either, but some stupid congressmen had a knee jerk reaction to a non-problem and didn't really address the issues involved either... trading one form of corruption for another.

What the TSA should be doing is real security and police work in airports. There may even be a need to keep it a federal agency, so far as threats to airport security typically do cross state borders and even become international problems. There are even national security issues involved so far as there are foreign governments who are using "terrorist groups" as surrogates to cause chaos and disorder deliberately in an attempt to further their own national goals. Yes, I'm saying that Al-Queida and other similar groups are not merely spontaneous but rather are supported, financed by, and encouraged by many countries (almost all of whom have seats at the United Nations along with national capitals and recognizable leaders) and this is a real war going on.

If these doughnut loving idiots would get off their behinds, turn off their scanning machines, and actually do some real police work to find those people who are causing problems... then I might be encouraged by the work that the TSA is doing. For now, I consider them to be lazy asses that are wasting billions of tax dollars on a futile exercise that won't stop a real terrorist attack in America by somebody determined to cause problems. This security theater is utter bullshit and needs to stop. If there is a real threat that soliders or mercenaries from foreign governments are coming into America... they should also be stopped. But it should be painfully obvious who they are as well and stopping those foreign soldiers from committing acts of war inside of America can be done without infringing on the rights of ordinary citizens or molesting toddlers.

Re:Yes (1)

Dasuraga (1147871) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826867)

While they are more reactive than proactive on that front unluckily(or luckily, depending on your standpoint), it's not as if the reaction treats exactly one case.

body scanners can stop more than just shoe bombers in principal. It's very much a unit-test philosophy: When you get a problem, make a test , and with some luck the test will have more coverage than just one specific thing.

Obviously doing nothing is not really a solution either. While locked cockpits stop a lot of things, it doesn't stop explosions from causing problems.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41827447)

... the purpose of doing security checks ...

The US DHS defines their purpose as 'to scare terrorists away'. This creates the problem that no 'terrorists' are at the airport. Hence those terrorists must using your car and the DHS needs to interfere with your lawful travel so said terrorists are scared out of your car.

... to eliminate shoe-bombing as a viable form of attack.

And eliminating condoms also eliminates unwanted pregnancies. (Since it prevents women having safe sex.)

A 'viable form of attack' does not require shoes, so eliminating shoes does not stop any attacks. If you want real safety, give your airport some tiger-repelling rocks.

Re:Yes (3, Insightful)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827657)

The TSA is still doing it completely wrong. You don't try to find weapons or dangerous items, you try to find dangerous people.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41827187)

I'm not a fan of TSA either, but this seems like an unfair standard. How many criminals has the lock on your home door stopped?

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826003)

Yes it is.

Yup done it a few times already basic HTML skills and PDF417 barcode reader and generator are all that is needed.

Re:Yes (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826495)

You can submit barcodes to an online reader as a scanned PNG now.

Don't even need specialised hardware.

Probably, but watch out for the Audit. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825529)

From what I've read, it would be fairly easy to re-encode your boarding pass to have pre-clearence approval on it. It is just changing a bit on the barcode. Remember, this is matched against your ID and logged. Sure you might get waved on the flight, but I would be shocked to find out anyone that tries this gets in serious trouble. Still doesn't stop the terrorist passenger but might catch people fast enough to honeypot dry runs.

Re:Probably, but watch out for the Audit. (5, Informative)

NIK282000 (737852) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825617)

There is a very good DefCon talk on youtube about barcodes and how easy they are to scam. It's so trivial to encrypt the data in a barcode but of course TSA has spared every expense in the defence of america.
 
  Here's the DefCon talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT_gwl1drhc [youtube.com]

The TSA does NOT print the BP (1)

aepervius (535155) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827709)

The airline are printing the baording pass, and they always did it unencrypted, for cost reason, and because some of the CKI system are old legacy system which would not support any modern encryption. So. Yeah. It is a non story.

Re:Probably, but watch out for the Audit. (4, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826307)

    Actually, if they have any common sense, they'd verify the barcode read from the ticket to the barcode stored in the airline DB when the ticket was printed. Modifying it would be a huge red flag.

    But as we all know, the TSA has no common sense. I've considered it mind numbingly stupid that every time I've gone through an airport since 9/11, the super-duper-secure TSA checkpoint (ha!) doesn't check that my boarding pass actually corresponds to a real ticket issued. We're not talking about anything amazingly high tech, except a barcode reader, and network connection to verify against the airline(s) systems.

    The only place that it's cross referenced is boarding, and even that is only most of the airlines I fly. I've been on a few that still just tear the paper boarding pass, and let you on. No verification or anything. At least not before the plane departs. I've been early (just like they ask you to), so I've watched them scanning used boarding passes minutes to hours after the flight leaves. I'm sure we're not suppose to observe procedure, even though it's done right in front of us.

Re:Probably, but watch out for the Audit. (2)

Ksevio (865461) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826741)

There's also nothing forcing you to show the same ticket to the TSA as to the people at the gate. Could have a fake one for the TSA and a real one for the plane to ensure it checks out with the airline.

Re:Probably, but watch out for the Audit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826987)

Yyyyyeah, but then you'd need a real boarding pass anyway. Why wouldn't you just... use the real one all the way through?

The whole point of this is to not NEED a real one.

Re:Probably, but watch out for the Audit. (2)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827493)

No, it's so you can skip the TSA stripsearch once you have a legitimate ticket.

Could be a honeypot (5, Interesting)

mepperpint (790350) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825571)

If I were designing a security system for TSA, I would definitely consider printing a (possibly fake) screening status in the barcode in plain text. If you keep a database of what status you assigned to which boarding ticket, then you can more thoroughly screen (or arrest and jail indefinitely) anyone who changes the easily hackable obvious screening status on their boarding pass. This is much like a honeypot that folks sometimes use in network security. (For those who don't know, a honeypot is an easily hackable machine that serves no purpose except to be hacked so that an observer can find folks who are trying to break in.)

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825589)

They're not that smart. They still haven't been able to stop common theft from checked baggage.

Re:Could be a honeypot (3, Funny)

Joe Decker (3806) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826431)

Stop it? Don't be silly.

They've added to it.

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

p0p0 (1841106) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825623)

Is this would accomplish what? The terrorists can use Photoshop?

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

NIK282000 (737852) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825639)

I think its more the "why" rather then the "how" that TSA would be interested in.

Re:Could be a honeypot (4, Informative)

iiii (541004) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825769)

Yeah, and the "who".

Their thought: "hey, well catch the bad guys who are trying to get around security!"
Reality: they catch the nerds who know how to hack barcodes and want to save 10 minutes of waiting in a security line.

But this is giving them too much credit. They are not thinking that far ahead. They are still stuck on shoe bombs (22 Dec 2001).

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826389)

    They're stuck on the shoe bombing, because that's the only somewhat viable event that's happened in years.

Re:Could be a honeypot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825681)

Yes but think of the headlines that it'd generate - "TSA and FBI catch terrorist attempting to breach security". We have theater security, now we have theater arrests.

Re:Could be a honeypot (5, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826383)

    Actually, nothing.

    If it's a bad guy doing it, they'll have a number trying to go through. The ones with flagged boarding passes will turn around and go home. The ones with clean boarding passes will continue through, smile, and say "thank you" to the TSA people (s)he encounters.

    Anyone with any remotely planned mission will have such things in place, and already be ready for them. Send 5 guys in with tickets. A few will get caught. Some won't. Remember the recent tests where only 25% of the weapons passed through x-ray were caught. 5 people means 1 or 2 will get caught. Those odds can be improved if they synchronize someone who *will* get caught. It will draw attention away from the others who they want to make it.

    I've observed that happening more than once. Someone gets stopped for having something "nefarious", like a bottle of water, or knitting needles. They make noise, more TSA employees go to guard, and now the rest of the lines are understaffed, and more will be waved through unmolested.

Re:Could be a honeypot (2)

nzac (1822298) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825675)

This is way to simple not to have been done before, someone will have actually used it and unless they have rushed off to gitmo i would guess its undetectable.

I could understand why they might want local authentication but they should at least be able hand out keys to airlines for each airport and encrypt it using the key for the airport you are departing from.

Re:Could be a honeypot (3, Interesting)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825797)

If I were designing a security system for TSA, I would definitely consider printing a (possibly fake) screening status in the barcode in plain text. If you keep a database of what status you assigned to which boarding ticket, then you can more thoroughly screen (or arrest and jail indefinitely) anyone who changes the easily hackable obvious screening status on their boarding pass.

This is an interesting point, but what does any of this have to do with catching terrorists? Now TSA will detain people who mess with barcodes and claim them to be terrorists?

To extend your line of thought -- If _I_ were designing a security system for TSA (an organization that has never caught a terrorist on its own accord), I too would make up an easily game-able system so that TSA can actually arrest some people and then trump such arrests as success and therefore request more funding.

It would be a lot cheaper and just as efficient to go back to pre-9-11 security and invest in an "anti-terrorism rock" for contractors (if contractors must be funded by this).

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

blandcramration (2636571) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827573)

Please don't give them any ideas to increase their budget

Re:Could be a honeypot (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825835)

It's not a honeypot if the information provided is accurate. If the TSA is encoding the screening level on the barcode, then adversaries can use that information to enhance the success rate of smuggling something past security.

Re:Could be a honeypot (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826561)

Don't overestimate the TSA. Bruce Schneier has the habit of meeting journalists who want to interview him inside the "secure" part of the airport and sending them fake boarding pass to print themselves. He thinks it helps him make his point about how this is all a "security theater".

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826797)

Bruce Schneier has the habit of meeting journalists who want to interview him inside the "secure" part of the airport and sending them fake boarding pass to print themselves

While I agree much of TSA is security threatre, I suspect this trick is coming to an end. Most checkpoints now have bar code scanners which confirm the validity of the boarding pass.

Re:Could be a honeypot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826577)

then you can more thoroughly screen (or arrest and jail indefinitely) anyone who changes the easily hackable obvious screening status on their boarding pass

Are you suggesting it should be life in prison, for some stupid kid trying to bypass a hassle and get conveniently on their flight?

Re:Could be a honeypot (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826899)

"(For those who don't know, a honeypot is an easily hackable machine that serves no purpose except to be hacked so that an observer can find folks who are trying to break in.)"

Kind of like this thread.

Could be white hats 'crowdsourcing' (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827095)

This could be someone in the Federal Government's bright idea...I'm thinking some guy doing a powerpoint talking about 'utilizing the open-source security community'

They might have even used the word 'crowdsourcing' or 'hacktivist'...

If true, I hope their plan works...the fed's geeks are the bottom third of the talent pool using arcane intelligence systems

I say this in light of this article: "Want a security pro? For starters, get politically incorrect and understand geek culture" [networkworld.com]

This was in the news last week. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825601)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=TSA+precheck+barcode+news

Re:This was in the news last week. (2, Interesting)

Aardpig (622459) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825655)

It was also on Slashdot last week. Good to see that the editorial standards are as high as ever; although Timothy is sadly departed (good night, sweet prince), his fine legacy continues...

Re:This was in the news last week. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825971)

It was also on Slashdot last week. Good to see that the editorial standards are as high as ever;

Occasional dupes are not the most terrible thing.
Personally, I have missed it last week, so I am glad to participate in the discussion now.

Proper editing is far more important (so that the summary and the title are _factually correct_)

dupe (2, Insightful)

iiii (541004) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825695)

If this sounds a little familiar, well, it is... http://it.slashdot.org/story/12/10/24/2222225/ [slashdot.org] But I like the tie in with the /. logo today. Will that logo get me a faster screening?

Re:dupe (2)

pswPhD (1528411) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825955)

If this sounds a little familiar, well, it is...
http://it.slashdot.org/story/12/10/24/2222225/ [slashdot.org]

There is a difference between this article and the previous one. the question is: do they compare their database with the boarding card to see if it has been altered? The only way to check this would be to check the boarding card, Photoshop/gimp the barcode, go through the TSA theatre with the altered card and see what happens.

I would not want to try this myself. I think most people here have a fairly dim view of the TSA, so I wouldn't put it past them not to compare the card with the database, but there may be one person who thought about this.

looked into it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825733)

I looked into it, but it turns out that modifying a boarding pass is a felony.

Re:looked into it (1)

pswPhD (1528411) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825967)

I looked into it, but it turns out that modifying a boarding pass is a felony.

And since when has that stopped people modifying/copying hardware, software, music, or legal documents?

Re:looked into it (4, Insightful)

Imrik (148191) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826035)

Copying and/or modifying is fairly safe, trying to pass it off as the original is when it gets dangerous.

Re:looked into it (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826843)

And since when has that stopped people modifying/copying hardware, software, music, or legal documents?

When there has been a good chance of getting caught and prosecuted.

Re:looked into it (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827303)

So is strapping on an exploding vest.

No brainer (2)

Meltir (891449) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825745)

Store a list of generated barcodes. Sure its big. Its also a very trivial lookup.
If yours doesn't match what's in the DB, prepare for the anal probes.

Or am I crediting the TSA with too many competent technicians ?

Re:No brainer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826197)

Store a list of generated barcodes. ... If yours doesn't match what's in the DB, prepare for the anal probes.

Or they could just randomly select people for anal probes. Even less work - for the same result!

The public relations announcement practically writes itself.

No terrorist in the world is safe from our anal probing experts!

Re:No brainer (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827031)

Technicians? You don't know how it's done in government. Namely, they can don't do anything themselves -- savings and personnel cuts, you understand, of course. Technology is contracted out. Thus they'd need to award some contractor company a project worth a couple million USD to do this. Perhaps even a couple dozen million. TSA, just as any govt. agency, has occasional competent people on board, but they can't do squat, most of the time.

Always been "hackable" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825747)

Boarding passes have always been this way, it just wasn't always a bar code.

Why the hell would you even want to try? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825755)

These people are lazy. They're annoying, and they're a blight to society. However, for the time being we're all stuck with them until the rest of the general population rises up and says "We've had enough, out you go!".

So I ask you this- even if the system is "easy to game", why the hell would you want to risk it? Maybe you get past their security once, twice, a dozen times, etc. Maybe it is easy to game. That's nice and all.

The question you should be asking yourself is: "What are the consequences of being caught?". These people will happily label you as a terrorist and put you on a no-fly list FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. You think you have legal rights, that they can't do that? They have and they will. Have fun spending the next 5 years of your life debating the finer details of the law in court so you can continue to fly down to Hawaii with the family on occasion for vacation.

It doesn't matter that their system is broken, or that the whole thing is a security theatre and a complete and utter farce. It matters what they're going to do to you when they find out you've been tampering with the system. If you make them look like idiots, their reaction will be to label you as a nefarious terrorist or hacker who was out to get the TSA and thank god they eventually stopped you because who knows what you would have done if they hadn't.

So are you **really** willing to live with the consequences of tampering with the system? Or are you just talking big because someone said the TSA was hackable and now it's all cool and hip to point that out to other people and pretend like you're actually gonna go ahead and do it?

Re:Why the hell would you even want to try? (5, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825851)

So I ask you this- even if the system is "easy to game", why the hell would you want to risk it? Maybe you get past their security once, twice, a dozen times, etc. Maybe it is easy to game. That's nice and all.

The question you should be asking yourself is: "What are the consequences of being caught?". These people will happily label you as a terrorist and put you on a no-fly list FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Which is probably about half an hour for most of the people who would likely be trying to game the system. And that is why it is the responsibility of security researchers and other folks to point out the flaws in the system and to make the TSA look like idiots at every possible opportunity. It is their civic duty, as they represent the only remaining hope that the TSA will either go away or become useful.

Re:Why the hell would you even want to try? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826613)

Have fun spending the next 5 years of your life debating the finer details of the law in court so you can continue to fly down to Hawaii with the family on occasion for vacation.

They will happily let you fly down to Hawaii with your family on vacation, then add you to the no-fly list, so you can't fly back.

I know of a person this happened to for no apparent reason; they've been stuck in Hawaii for many months, without any means of available of returning home.

Re:Why the hell would you even want to try? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826923)

Try a boat.

Re:Why the hell would you even want to try? (1)

Jake Dodgie (53046) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827021)

Umm boat?

Re:Why the hell would you even want to try? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41827257)

Umm boat?

Boat/cruise passengers are also checked against the same list, and denied entry.

Re:Why the hell would you even want to try? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41827527)

These people are lazy. They're annoying, and they're a blight to society.

And their doing with your tax dollar for your 'benefit'. Why would the general population say "We've had enough, out you go!". It can also be argued, if you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem.

... It doesn't matter that their system is broken

Change your name to "Ahmed Al-Shaqqaf", then tell me what doesn't matter. Your opinion will have more credibility if you then travel outside the USA.

This is like the mayor of L.A.saying those black people must protest racial discrimination without upsetting the white folk.

I'll take some of that! (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825775)

one could use a barcode-reading Web site (like this one, perhaps) to translate a barcode into text to determine your screening level before a flight. One might even be able to modify the boarding pass using PhotoShop or the GIMP to, for example, get the screening level of your choice.

Yes, I'd like to board an airline flight with a forged boarding pass , and all the privileges that come with it!

Barcode reading website? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825803)

What century is this? Presumably the poster is the only person on Slashdot who doesn't have a smartphone with a barcode reader built in.

Re:Barcode reading website? (4, Insightful)

jibjibjib (889679) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825979)

> What century is this?

It's the 21st century. You know, that century where not every Slashdot reader has a smartphone, and the majority of smartphones don't come with a built-in barcode reader, and reading barcodes is mostly pointless enough that the majority of users haven't installed a barcode reader.

Re:Barcode reading website? (1)

issicus (2031176) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826127)

why would I want a smart phone, it's like a small shitty computer.

Re:Barcode reading website? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827141)

Big shitty computers, I can handle. They at least have keyboards.

Re:Barcode reading website? (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827133)

I might similarly presume that you're really the only person on Slashdot who bothered to install a barcode reader into their smartphone.

Re:Barcode reading website? (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827563)

All right, I'll bite.

The open source zxing barcode reader for Android alone has 50-100 million installs from the Play market. RedLaser has 1-5 million, and ShopSavvy has 10-50 million. That's just on Android, and doesn't include side-loads direct from the websites in question.

Now sure, Angry Birds has 100-500 million installs, so barcode reading software may not be quite as popular, but to assume that any bored geek with a smart phone who wanted to check their boarding pass barcode would go to their nearest PC or laptop and try to scan it with their webcam instead of using a mobile device that fits in one hand and can scan the code quick and easy is just silly.

Now, you feel free to be silly if you want, I'm not one to stop people from being silly, but the first time I wanted to scan a barcode I installed the zxing scanner, and what with how it integrates into the share options on Android, I've installed it on every device since.

Re:Barcode reading website? (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827587)

Google Goggles also does a nice job with barcodes.

Easy to Read, not sure easy to change (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41825829)

Look the code to determine pre-check is in the clear and easy to read. What's not obvious is if it's also easy to change. There is a base-64 message below all the normal data that seems to decode to a hash. I would expect that this hash is protecting the integrity of the data above. No one I have seen has modified their barcode and presented it to the TSA. So while there is speculation that it is easy to change, there is no proof and some mild evidence that says this may not be so.

Re:Easy to Read, not sure easy to change (4, Insightful)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826201)

Reading that information might be all they need to do. If you have a bunch of co-conspirators on the same plane, you only need one to go through the lighter-screening channel smuggling the box-cutters/drugs/microfilm or whatever; whoever has the magic barcode gets to wear the shoes with the false heels. Alternately, if you know you're not going to be waved through the less-intensive security channel you could cancel your flight or take the flight and just postpone your nefarious deeds for another day.

Re:Easy to Read, not sure easy to change (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826681)

Or you could just get a job as a TSA agent and wheel a huge suitcase sized bomb right past security and onto the plane.

Barcode-reading Web site? (2)

Relayman (1068986) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825927)

In theory, one could use a barcode-reading Web site ...

That is so 1990s. I use NeoReader [neoreader.com] on my iPhone. It's available for Android as well.

Boarding Passes with PDF417 barcodes (3, Interesting)

Tancred (3904) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825943)

My boarding passes seem to have PDF417 barcodes on them. I've tried several but haven't found an Android app that'll read them yet. The Android app from the airline displays a QR code boarding pass, but then I can't scan it with my phone. Anyone know an Android app that'll scan it? Or a program for Mac that'll scan a QR code from the camera? No, I'm not looking to change it, but finding out if I got the PreCheck lane would be nice in advance.

Re:Boarding Passes with PDF417 barcodes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826381)

I downloaded Accusoft Barcode Scanner and it correctly read my PDF417 barcoded boarding pass.

It did have a 3 as the last number. I have gone through the Pre-Check line at airports with Pre-Check almost every time since it started. I could not find a boarding pass from an airport without Pre-Check to see what the code looks like.

Re:Boarding Passes with PDF417 barcodes (2)

El Micko (118401) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826487)

"finding out if I got the PreCheck lane would be nice in advance"

I am sure the terrorists would love to know this as well.

Obvious Terrorist Scenario: Fly around the US enough and get PreCheck status.
Use the barcode and the decoded information to determine which flight to strap on the suicide vest.
If you don't get PreCheck, then don't wear the vest.

I sincerely hope that the the TSA is not stupid enough to leave the decoding of the PreCheck status as something as trivial as an unecoded/plain text 'bit flip' from a barcode.

Surely the barcode decodes to a string that requires a strong private key to actually decipher?

Anything less would be negligent.

Re:Boarding Passes with PDF417 barcodes (1)

Tancred (3904) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826587)

You'll note I didn't say it was a good system.

The obvious answer for the problem is to scan the barcode at security, which could just be a unique identifier, and look it up in a database of who's cleared for PreCheck that day.

Re:Boarding Passes with PDF417 barcodes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41827533)

I'd argue that nobody should ever know who is cleared for PreCheck, ever.

I think that is the salient point.

Re:Boarding Passes with PDF417 barcodes (1)

Tancred (3904) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827607)

I think that'd be a better system, too, as I described. I happen to know I'm not a threat, so me looking at my own boarding pass harms no one. And as others have stated, this little bit of notoriety is likely to get the system changed.

Counterfeiting (2)

Beardydog (716221) | about a year and a half ago | (#41825983)

I think the GIMP is a long-term government anti-counterfeiting scheme.

Simple answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826015)

The first reason you don't want to do this is because you don't want someone's finger in your butt. (Not in this way, anyway)

When they scan your ticket with the and it doesn't match the database, they'll probably scan it a few more times, then have you step into the extended screening anyway while they check out your ticket. This will be followed by a thorough search of your luggage and belongings. Once they find that you've actually modified your ticket, they then perform a thorough search of you.

There are bigger reasons further down the line, but this is the first one that will really stand out.

Naoimi Wolf, had SSS on her card (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826053)

It use to be that the card would get stamped SSS and that was how you tell you were on the super secret Bush list:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjALf12PAWc

So all they do now is encode it better, but not well.

For your own good(s) (2)

lucm (889690) | about a year and a half ago | (#41826129)

Forget preCheck or not preCheck, the real question is to know if there is a code or keyword that can be printed on the ticket to prevent TSA agents from stealing iPads and money from the luggage or from the scanner basket.

Thinking of that, maybe the TSA is actually doing a good job: I'm not afraid of hijackers anymore, I'm afraid of getting robbed by the TSA Fingermen.

Begin at the beginning... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826317)

An excellent point is made above - with the TSA's wholehearted embodiment of the everything-looks-like-a-nail-if-all-you've-got-is-a-hammer ethos, defrauding the system (e.g. modifying your boarding card) is probably not something you want to get in to. Being sent home instead of to Hawaii once is worth a lifetime of taking off your shoes at the airport if you ask me.

I suppose the first question would really be... can you cause the system to change your TSA barcode through "normal" behaviour? Is the TSA code to check you tied to the traveler or the boarding pass? Given the TSA's track record, I'd say it's equally likely that a reprinted boarding pass would have a different barcode. If that happens to be the case, then you've basically got a free pass to print - scan - assess - reprint until you find a TSA code you like - and all without obviously defrauding the system.
If that doesn't work, I'd be totally shocked if asking to have your seat changed and getting a new pass didn't generate a new code.

Re:Begin at the beginning... (4, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827041)

You can always get a legit boarding pass with no extra screening, change it to extra screening, and see what happens. They can't say you tried to bypass any security measures that way :)

Boarding passes are not easy to modify. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826471)

Online check-in, mobile, and kiosk printed boarding passes are all signed so would be difficult if not impossible to modify to get the "3" needed for PreCheck. Counter printed boarding passes are not signed but are more difficult to counterfeit as you'd need blank airline ticket stock as well as the special thermal printers used at airline counters.

TSA, Der Fuhrer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41826745)

As TSA is an illegal institution of the U.S.A. Federal Government, and not bound by any sort of ethics, laws, morals or even common sense, I have and will not. :P

RFC 3514 (2, Funny)

benjamindees (441808) | about a year and a half ago | (#41827155)

TSA has implemented the Evil Bit for terrorists.

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