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Schneier Has Something Good To Say About Airport Security

timothy posted about a year ago | from the this-will-disrupt-the-lax-theft-model dept.

Government 226

Bruce Schneier points out on his blog a proposal to use electronic randomizers at airport security checkpoints. Schneier writes there: "I've seen something like this at customs in, I think, India. Every passenger walks up to a kiosk and presses a button. If the green light turns on, he walks through. If the red light turns on, his bags get searched. Presumably the customs officials can set the search percentage. Automatic randomized screening is a good idea. It's free from bias or profiling. It can't be gamed. These both make it more secure. Note that this is just an RFI from the TSA. An actual program might be years away, and it might not be implemented well. But it's certainly a start." In this case, the proposal is for randomizers that direct passengers to particular conveyor-belt lines for screening.

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Same in Mexico. (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44333801)

Nothing new here.
Had the same experience in mexico a dozen years ago.
Red light or green light.
But back then, there was a guy standing on a switch could just flex his knee to make additional selections if you looks particularly shady.

Re:Same in Mexico. (1)

jcr (53032) | about a year ago | (#44333929)

Yeah, went there a short while ago and the Mexican customs officer asked me to put my bag through an x-ray machine, then push a button. Got a green light, so they waved me through. Not sure how many people got the red light, but our whole flight got through customs pretty quick.

-jcr

Re:Same in Brazil. (3, Interesting)

dafradu (868234) | about a year ago | (#44334091)

Nothing new here.
Had the same experience in mexico a dozen years ago.
Red light or green light.
But back then, there was a guy standing on a switch could just flex his knee to make additional selections if you looks particularly shady.

We had (still have?) this in Brazil. But i think it was only in the customs area, not really for security screening.

Re:Same in Mexico. (1)

emag (4640) | about a year ago | (#44334491)

Yeah, our trip to Cancun a few years ago, we got a red light on the way in through customs. They're surprisingly efficient at the search, probably because they don't want to piss off the tourists.

Re:Same in Mexico. (-1, Flamebait)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#44334587)

I'll get hate for saying this but if ALL of your bombings and attacks are ONLY coming from ONE group, a group that rhymes with "Buslim"? Then it is NOT profiling to throw an extra glance at those that are part of that group!

THIS is why I fricking hate political correctness, because it DEMANDS that sanity be thrown out the window! Like how they had a shitfit at cops in Arizona targeting Latinos looking for illegals...uhh...when you are against the border with MEXICO I don't think illegal Swedes are gonna be a fucking problem!

Oh and before anybody brings up OKC? You have ONE time, ONE attack, versus how many attacks just this month by those who follow the certain religion again? Like it or not the vast majority of the OTHER religions grew the fuck up, whereas Islam is still living in the dark ages. Do you see the OTHER religions chopping off hands and stoning rape victims? NO, just the backwards ass Muslims. So it is NOT profiling to look extra hard if you are part of a group that causes the majority of terror attacks every. single. year. that is just common damned sense!

Re:Same in Mexico. (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#44334637)

They've been doing this in the airport in Lima, Peru, for at least 24 years.

Just like Mexico for the last 30 years. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333815)

so what

Surely (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333835)

Yes but if it's random surely they would need a separate belt for the foreign looking people thats more random.. Right?

Low tech solution (2)

edjs (1043612) | about a year ago | (#44333845)

Issue the TSA some dice?

Re:Low tech solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333931)

but if they use the high tech solution, they could et rid of 90% of TSA agents

Re:Low tech solution (5, Funny)

d'baba (1134261) | about a year ago | (#44333969)

Issue the TSA some dice?

Only if I can negate the search with a saving throw...

Re:Low tech solution (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44334279)

"Ok, let's see. Your base THACO is 10, with -1 for having small suitcase, and another -1 for TSA as racial enemy, however +1 because of the tiny plume of smoke coming from your shoes, so roll a 9 or better."

Re:Low tech solution (1)

d'baba (1134261) | about a year ago | (#44334341)

Damn, I rolled an 8! It's OK. Now have to go through my Magic Bag.
Gather around, light the fire. We're gonna be here awhile.

Pennies on The Billion Dollars (4, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | about a year ago | (#44333847)

I propose a device for random selection, consisting of a circular round object minted by our very own Federal Government that generates binary decisions with 50% probability, I can deliver these devices to the TSA at 100 units a shipment for a small price of $340,000 per shipment. I can have them delivered to every airport in the country within 2 weeks and we can implement this program by the Fall. They require no maintenance other than a 10 year service contract that adjust their randomness factor every year.

Any VC's out there?

Re:Pennies on The Billion Dollars (4, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year ago | (#44334033)

Keep in mind the training costs of using these circular round objects to generate binary decisions.

Re:Pennies on The Billion Dollars (1)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about a year ago | (#44334039)

a device for random selection, consisting of a circular round object minted by our very own Federal Government that generates binary decisions with 50% probability

They already have those, they are called "federal agents".

Re:Pennies on The Billion Dollars (4, Funny)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#44334137)

And don't forget the advanced adaptive screening rate through combinatorial probabilistics with both parallell and serial execution methods. You can also implement multiple selection criteria at once, subselecting some passengers to even more intensive screening methods. Though for expediency I'd recommend the d20.system instead.

Re:Pennies on The Billion Dollars (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334235)

I propose we read a TSA einsatzgruppen's entrails then ignore the results and repeat until we're happy with the answer.

Is there evidence that profiling is not effective? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333885)

Is there evidence that profiling passengers based on appearance and behavior is not more effective than randomized screening?

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333923)

Nah it's just the 'murican double standard at work. The one that says to avoid profiling at all costs while still being racist cunts.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (1)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year ago | (#44333981)

Is there evidence that profiling passengers based on appearance and behavior is not more effective than randomized screening?

I would assume profiling passengers based on behavior would work. Alas, that requires workers with some real behavioral training and too few contractors would benefit from that (so we buy $250K useless scanning machines instead).

Not sure what the is the point of randomized screening? Keeping us 10% safe? Keeping terrorists 10% concerned?

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334139)

I don't want to misrepresent Schneier's position, but I've read articles of his in the past which basically say a profile is bad because it gives a way to avoid screening: avoid matching the profile.

Randomized screening may allow a single terrorist through, but something like 9/11 which required 19 guys means almost certainly one of them will be caught. If one is caught, you know to look for others.

Of course, the real solution is locking the cockpit doors and passengers who will kill anyone who tries to hijack an airplane.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (2)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year ago | (#44334261)

More importantly, I guarantee that were such a system to be used in the US, it would include an override that watching agent could trigger a red light if he saw something suspicious... if only to ensure the continued employment of said agents. And such an override would result in profiling, negating one of the major advantages of the system.

 

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#44334609)

it would include an override that watching agent could trigger a red light if he saw something suspicious... if only to ensure the continued employment of said agents. And such an override would result in profiling, negating one of the major advantages of the system

Wait, *how* is not allowing an agent who saw something suspicious to stop someone an *advantage*!?

"Sir, I just saw this guy typing a text message 'almost through - they'll never find it before I get on' - should I stop him?"
"No, that would be profiling. Just make sure he pushes the button."

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334461)

Which is why the most recent terrorists-on-planes has been a white guy who tried to set fire to his shoe and a black guy who blew off his balls. Too many people watching the brown ones.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334635)

Indeed. People continue to think that profiling works because of cognitive biases, where they wave off evidence that contradicts their prejudice and focus on on evidence that

For example, whenever they hear about a suicide women bomber, they tend to think of it as an aberration. They keep assuming that all of these attacks are men. But according to a 2011 Army Intelligence report[1], women predominate in targeted assassinations all over the Middle East. In some regions--Kurdistan, Chechnya--women even constitute the majority of suicide bombers. Elsewhere they constitute a very substantial number of suicide bombers, and are hardly a rarity. Indeed, they even hone in on the stereotypes--packing explosives to make it look like they're pregnant.

So, the logic is definitely sound--the more you profile, the more the bad guys/gals adapt counter techniques. So profiling merely exacerbates inequalities. Far better to institute a system that can't be gamed, and that doesn't prejudice a minority.

1: http://info.publicintelligence.net/USArmy-FemaleSuicideBombers.pdf

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#44334585)

Randomized screening may allow a single terrorist through, but something like 9/11 which required 19 guys means almost certainly one of them will be caught. If one is caught, you know to look for others.

It wouldn't have made a bit of difference, since nothing they did was illegal at the time. They were basically using a few (at the time allowed) X-Actos in their luggage and several months of training on how to fly the planes.

You assume the terrorists are all stupid enough to try to bring something *currently* illegal through screening, which will almost never be the case.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333985)

Most terrorists are white males so we should profile them. I read here on /. that nearly 99% of the people that support bombings in the US of sporting events and abortion clinics are white.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334063)

I know you are just trying to be a dick... but if a male goes into an abortion clinic then it wouldn't be inappropriate to evaluate that male. Of course, then you have to accept profiling of other demographics in other situations like... for example... blowing up airplanes... Now, you're butt is suddenly all puckered up isn't it because that's not what you really meant. You just wanted to slam white males... You weren't actually trying to add anything constructive... I guess that means you're just an asshole...

   

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334209)

Of course, then you have to accept profiling of other demographics in other situations like... for example... blowing up airplanes

No, you I don't have to accept that because I never accepted the premise you derived that from. The whole point was that no one would be interested in profiling against white males.

because that's not what you really meant

Correct, it is not what was meant because you have no reading compression and tried to compensate by begging the question.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year ago | (#44333997)

since there aren't that many actual terrorists to test the system with, there really isn't much evidence... but there is some standard wisdom.

appearance: yes, because the adversary can easily figure it out and plan around it, or at least this is the usual argument. also, any judgment call or decision branch in the line slows it down for everyone because people are stupid and stubborn.

behavior: this might be effective, but it would slow the line down significantly and/or cost a lot. the point of security theatre is that it's cheaper than actually fixing things.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334075)

Is there evidence that profiling passengers based on appearance and behavior is not more effective than randomized screening?

According to Schneier, who makes a compelling argument, profiling based on a bad profile "can be statistically demonstrated to be no more effective than random screening", or worse (c.f. Schneier's comment in the NY Times debate: http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/will-profiling-make-a-difference/).

Profiles based on behavior can be effective, but are hard to get right (http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/07/profiling.html).

The chief value of random screening is that it introduces some probability of a terrorist being caught at the security checkpoint, thereby, we hope, reducing the chance of success sufficiently to make said terrorist choose another method of sowing terror than blowing up the plane.

The real security theater (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44334189)

Pretending that anyone from an 80-year old grandmother to a four year old presents an equal probability of trouble...

Takes a lot of acting chops to claim that's a good idea with a straight face.

No (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about a year ago | (#44334265)

just functioning brain cells and a lack of bigotry.

Common sense is not bigotry (5, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44334281)

just functioning brain cells and a lack of bigotry.

It's not bigotry to pay more attention by behavior profiling and using a little common sense rather than blind rule following.

Behavior analysis is free of racial implications.

Meanwhile "The Randomizer" pulls aside a four year old while letting through some sweaty guy with the shakes and an oddly bulging coat.

Re:Common sense is not bigotry (4, Informative)

Col. Bloodnok (825749) | about a year ago | (#44334517)

I think Schneier wrote about this in 'Beyond Fear'. A book which I think should be required reading for all politicians and policy makers.

The security staff in Israeli airports are trained to look for people 'acting hinky' - they have years of experience in this and an excellent record.

The Taliban in particular are not above using innocent women or children as remotely detonated 'suicide' vest victims - sometimes willing, but often not.

There is nothing preventing a mixed approach. Randomise searches by all means (I agree with Schneier, it can't not improve security), but you need the human behavioral analysis to bolster this for better security - that analysis is best done by trained professionals, something which the TSA are currently, not.

Re:The real security theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334273)

Isn't profiling simply a tool taught in Detectives 101? Or it should be. Sift the wheat from the chaff. Political correctness instead insists that we abandon reason, intelligence and critical thinking in order to avoid the worst possible thing in today's world, offending someone. Now let's get back to body scanning 80 year old nuns in wheelchairs.

Re:The real security theater (4, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44334319)

The oldest suicide bomber [inminds.com] I can find was a 64 year old woman. And an youngest [mirror.co.uk] person arrested for trying to be one is 11.

Not quite your 4 to 80 range, but close enough that you look pretty silly and uninformed.

Re:The real security theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334447)

The parent obviously did not mean that literally and you fucking know it. Stop being dishonest.

Re:The real security theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334469)

The parent obviously did not mean that literally and you fucking know it. Stop being dishonest.

wah I was wrong and you made me feel bad by pointing it out

FTFY.

Re:The real security theater (1)

cffrost (885375) | about a year ago | (#44334529)

Pretending that anyone from an 80-year old grandmother to a four year old presents an equal probability of trouble...

A grandmother would be an excellent candidate for recruiting to carry a proxy bomb. [wikipedia.org] TSA drone SuperKendall would likely wave her right through.

Takes a lot of acting chops to claim that's a good idea with a straight face.

I'm confident that that grandmother will come up with whatever "acting chops" are necessary to get that package through in order to spare the life of her kidnapped grandchild.

Note: Despite this post, I am not a supporter of TSA's draconian "security" practices, which I consider to be in violation of our rights under the Fourth Amendment. I stopped flying seven years ago, and won't fly again until airport security practices resemble those practiced here prior to 2001-09-11; (yes, I'm prepared to never fly again). Liberty > safety.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (4, Interesting)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44334297)

Profiling inevitably produces more false (usually an order of magnitude more) positives than real positives, and generally produces as many false negatives as false positivves. In other words, you're a lot more likely to spend your time searching someone for no reason than catch an actual bad guy, and as likely to let a real bad guy through as not.

And that assumes the profiling is done in an objective, unbiased manner. When human decisions are made as to who gets profiled, there will be bias, whether the humans doing it realize it or not. This, at least, eliminates that.

I'll bet, though, without reading TFA, that there is no thought whatsoever of this replacing any current profile based screening, only being used in addition to everything done now.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (1)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#44334407)

Yeah, but is that better or worse than random selection? Random selection is going to produce a ton of false positives and a lot of false negatives.

In other words: if they randomly select 10% of the passengers and 1 out of 1,000 is a terrorist or drug mule, it means that 90% of all "bad guys" will get through without a problem (90% false negative rate), and it means that virtually everyone (999 out of every 1000 people) who gets searched will be innocent (99.9% false positive rate).

If people can pickout people for screening, and they do better than random, then using a random system would be worse.

BTW, I recently listened to a Scientific American podcast where they did some "lab" tests to figure out whether or not someone was carrying a contraban package. They had five people walk through a room. One of the five had a contraban package. Random selection would produce a 20% rate of success. I believe they had a "hit" ratio of 30% using ordinary college students - which is slightly higher than random. (They also did a test with college students who tested high on the "psychopath test" and they were actually 70% accurate.) My main point, though, was that people do slightly better than random.

Here's the podcast (jump to 2 minutes in): http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=psychopathys-bright-side-kevin-dutt-12-12-29 [scientificamerican.com]

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334593)

It's been suggested that profiling can be gamed by the malfeasant organization. For example, send your five potential suicide bomber on benign test runs and choose the one that never gets pulled aside as the carrier for the bomb.

Here is a paper that looks at a different angle:

Strong profiling is not mathematically optimal for discovering rare malfeasors http://www.pnas.org/content/106/6/1716.full

We show here that strong profiling (defined as screening at least in proportion to prior probability) is no more efficient than uniform random sampling of the entire population, because resources are wasted on the repeated screening of higher probability, but innocent, individuals.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (1)

nerdonamotorcycle (710980) | about a year ago | (#44334357)

John Walker Lindh.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (4, Interesting)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#44334383)

Frankly, I don't care how effective either is; just get rid of the TSA and stop harassing people, even if at random or by profiling.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334495)

We had that before. Dozens hijacked planes under the delusion that they would be welcomed as heroes in Cuba (many were sent to labor camps). Surely there must be a happy medium here.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (3, Informative)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#44334557)

Wrong. Now that we secure cockpit doors and passengers are willing to fight back (neither of which violate anyone's freedoms), such hijackings are simply not going to happen.

That said, even if we didn't have either of those things, I believe freedom is more important than security, so toss your "happy medium" right in the garbage.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334661)

By "before" I assume you are referring to the 1960s or 70s and 'dozens' is a ridiculous exaggeration even then

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (5, Informative)

cffrost (885375) | about a year ago | (#44334417)

Is there evidence that profiling passengers based on appearance and behavior is not more effective than randomized screening?

Yes. MIT published a paper entitled "Carnival Booth" that demonstrated that random screening is more secure than profiling, essentially due to the latter's vulnerability to probing:

Carnival Booth: An Algorithm for Defeating the Computer-Assisted Passenger Screening System [mit.edu]

A Lay Explanation of the MIT Research Paper [Carnival Booth] [boycottdelta.org]

Schneier on Security: Profiling [schneier.com]

Proxy bombs [wikipedia.org] are also difficult to screen for with profiles.

Re:Is there evidence that profiling is not effecti (2)

brit74 (831798) | about a year ago | (#44334551)

I recently listened to a Scientific American podcast where they did some "lab" tests to figure out whether or not someone was carrying a contraban package. They had five people walk through a room. One of the five had a contraban package. Random selection would produce a 20% rate of success. I believe they had a "hit" ratio of 30% using ordinary college students - which is slightly higher than random. (They also did a test with college students who tested high on the "psychopath test" and they were actually 70% accurate.) My main point, though, was that people do slightly better than random.

Here's the podcast (jump to 2 minutes in): http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=psychopathys-bright-side-kevin-dutt-12-12-29 [scientificamerican.com]

A few billion dollars later... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333909)

Some private contractor (probably recommended by Chertoff) will deliver years late, over budget, and after a terrorist gets through, people will discover that the light always turns green.

Republicans will insist that it's the government's fault and that private contractors could have done it cheaper and better.

Democrats will insist that everyone gets anal probes.

Re:A few billion dollars later... (2)

szark (1066530) | about a year ago | (#44334083)

Some private contractor (probably recommended by Chertoff) will deliver years late, over budget, and after a terrorist gets through, people will discover that the light always turns green.

And that private contractor will most likely be named Dr. Gaius Baltar.

the lottery (1)

drwho (4190) | about a year ago | (#44333921)

They give you a piece of paper with a block dot on it.

Re:the lottery (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#44334005)

The black dot is Tralfamadorian for "hi"

Vancouver (YVR) has something similar (4, Informative)

KPexEA (1030982) | about a year ago | (#44333925)

You stand on a mat and it directs you to one of three different security lines, presumably to randomize the screeners incase you have one on your payroll.,

Re:Vancouver (YVR) has something similar (1)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year ago | (#44334093)

You stand on a mat and it directs you to one of three different security lines, presumably to randomize the screeners incase you have one on your payroll.

Is there any evidence evidence that someone is trying to get through? (not to mention to recruit a screener)

Have they ever caught anyone?

Bait. (1)

lcampagn (842601) | about a year ago | (#44333955)

The statement "It can't be gamed" was planted in the summary so that suckers like myself would rush to the commentary to call shenanigans.

Binomial Theory (5, Funny)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#44333965)

Any terrorist with a simple grasp of binomial theory could work out the number of terrorists to send through the gate necessary to achieve a 90% confidence that one of them gets through with the bomb, given only the relative probability of red vs. green.

So we must prevent binomial theory getting in the hands of terrorists.

Re:Binomial Theory (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#44334021)

E.G, with a 90% chance of getting a red, the terrorist mastermind would need to send 7 terrorists through to get a 52% chance of one of them getting through unsearched.

Re:Binomial Theory (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334045)

Any terrorist with a simple grasp of binomial theory could work out the number of terrorists to send through the gate necessary to achieve a 90% confidence that one of them gets through with the bomb, given only the relative probability of red vs. green.

Any terrorist can realize that a security line (which gets huge during busy season) is as good of a place as any to detonate a bomb. No security _before_ the checkpoint.

Re:Binomial Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334337)

Bombing up a queue has no symbolic value, as everyone hates them.

Re:Binomial Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334645)

So it does have symbolic value, just not the preferred kind. Maybe we can start dropping hints so that they'll attack the places we don't like: Wall Street, that derelict building down the block, etc.

"Obama to visit, spend the night unguarded, below bridge scheduled for demolition next week. Said to pray for 12 hours straight that Jesus rapes Mohammed as penance for Middle East enmity toward Israeli."

Re:Binomial Theory (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about a year ago | (#44334071)

Assuming they would put the airport on lockdown and start searching everyone if they found one person with a bomb, sending more people through would just increase the chances of getting caught and foiled.

Re:Binomial Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334183)

"assuming"

That's your failure point. At not point in any airport in the history of aviation has a complete lockdown and search taken place.

Re:Binomial Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334601)

Plan B, if the airport is locked down auto-detonate all of my bombers.

Re:Binomial Theory (1)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44334331)

If the plane takes off anyway after finding a hijacker/bomber trying to get on, the first time, it won't after that until every single passenger has been stripped searched.

Duh.

Re:Binomial Theory (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#44334581)

What makes you think the TSA would act rationally?

Re:Binomial Theory (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334519)

Any terrorist with a simple grasp of binomial theory could work out the number of terrorists to send through the gate necessary to achieve a 90% confidence that one of them gets through with the bomb, given only the relative probability of red vs. green.

So we must prevent binomial theory getting in the hands of terrorists.

Yes. Which is why YOU DON'T TELL THE FUCKING TSA THIS, because in their heads, the only logical course of action to fix this is an "improvement" on the theory: Literally everybody gets the red light. Spin it to congressdrones as a job-making program for the government and you'll quickly see why you should shut your goddamned face already and stop giving them ideas to corrupt, Schneier.

Can be gamed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333973)

It can be gamed if you have enough volunteers for suicide missions. So some of them get searched and caught, woo hoo; one will get through eventually. You just have to not care about your cannon fodder (which given you're sending them to blow themselves up is pretty much a given....)

Re:Can be gamed (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#44334509)

It can be gamed if you have enough volunteers for suicide missions. So some of them get searched and caught, woo hoo; one will get through eventually. You just have to not care about your cannon fodder (which given you're sending them to blow themselves up is pretty much a given....)

I don't think you grasp the fundamental concepts here. To "game" the system in this context means taking advantage of features of the system to make sure your fodder has a better chance of getting through. What you're describing is just accepting lower success rates because the system can't be gamed in that way.

How idiotic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334003)

With a monolithic culture, a purely random process makes sense... Could you please direct me to that imaginary monolithic culture? I want to move there and F*ck it all up...

Imagine wasting 70 percent of your time searching grandmothers, children, and the handicapped instead of searching the more likely demographic. It's pure idiocy to think profiling is a bad thing. If you are profiling to harass then yes it is bad but if you are profiling because the profiled group is doing all of the bad things then profiling is not bad. Only an idiot can't see such an obvious truth...

 

Re:How idiotic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334103)

Because NO terrorist would ever think to bring a child along with the bomb in the backpack.... only an idiot can't see such an obvious truth.... Leave mommies basement please and see the real world around you

Re:How idiotic (5, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#44334559)

With a monolithic culture, a purely random process makes sense... Could you please direct me to that imaginary monolithic culture? I want to move there and F*ck it all up...

Imagine wasting 70 percent of your time searching grandmothers, children, and the handicapped instead of searching the more likely demographic. It's pure idiocy to think profiling is a bad thing. If you are profiling to harass then yes it is bad but if you are profiling because the profiled group is doing all of the bad things then profiling is not bad. Only an idiot can't see such an obvious truth...

If you have a building with four entrances, and you have twelve guards to cover them, do you put three at each entrance, covering each as best you can, or do you put nine on one entrance you think is most likely to see an attacker, and only one on each of the other three?

If you're an idiot, you do the latter. If you're not an idiot, you realize the former yields maximum security, because as soon as you put all your guards on one entrance, it becomes far easier for an attacker to get in, they just use one of the other three.

If you can understand that, you should be able to comprehend why searching any particular demographic more (and thus, by diverting resources, means you search others less) makes you less secure, not more. As soon as your move resources into an uneven distribution mode, you open up exploitable holes, and you're a moron if you think your enemy won't exploit that.

Your "obvious truth" is the kind of thing uneducated people who don't really understand the problem say. Answers always seem obvious when you don't understand the problem -- but you could actually try educating yourself before spouting off idiotic nonsense...

Can't Be Gamed? Hahahahahahahaha!!! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44334037)

A little wire underneath, or even a radio receiver. Push the button... red light!

It only "can't be gamed" if you have independent sources checking them out to make sure they're MADE not to be gamed, and that they stay that way AFTER manufacture.

This is the same fundamental problem they had with electronic voting booths. They couldn't be "gamed", either. But they were.

Re:Can't Be Gamed? Hahahahahahahaha!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334193)

Good call here, tho this makes our hero Schneier look like a moron.

Re:Can't Be Gamed? Hahahahahahahaha!!! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44334301)

"Good call here, tho this makes our hero Schneier look like a moron."

Well, I certainly do not thing Bruce is a moron!

But I have noticed this about many security researchers, as well as manufacturers of security equipment: they tend to focus on their own security specialty, while shutting out the environment surrounding it.

Thus you end up with nice, secure algorithms, that are implemented in ways that are full of holes. Or makers of "secure" electronic locks that are attached to cheap, vulnerable locking mechanisms. Etc.

In a case like this: the chip or circuit or software might not be able to be gamed... but all you have to do is put a switch or relay on the OUTPUT, and voila! Full control of that little red light.

Re:Can't Be Gamed? Hahahahahahahaha!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334541)

He means that it could not gamed by would-be terrorist. No one in the TSA gives two fucks about false positives.

Presses a button (1)

ark1 (873448) | about a year ago | (#44334041)

If hands are cold -> passenger must be nervous -> must have something to hide -> red light.

Not just India (1)

redmid17 (1217076) | about a year ago | (#44334047)

I saw this when I went to Mexico back in February. I wouldn't mind this at all. I'm not shocked at all it only took 12 years for the TSA to get out an RFI on a really fucking simple concept, one that isn't too difficult to implement.

I don't really see them implementing it well, but that's another story. Small steps

Random? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334053)

What's the bet that the security guy has a button that he can press, to force a red?

Meh (1)

KingTank (631646) | about a year ago | (#44334057)

Random checks generally work as a deterrent. Like randomly checking athletes for steroids. The risk of getting caught will deter them from juicing. But a suicidal terrorist isn't going to care much about getting caught. Sure, if you check 10% of the passengers that will stop nearly 10% of terrorist weapon smuggling, but I don't think anyone will find that an impressive accomplishment. You could check say, 30% or 50%, but then the process will be so time-consuming, you might as well just check everyone.

Re:Meh (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44334111)

Random checks generally work as a deterrent. Like randomly checking athletes for steroids.

As far as I can tell, that doesn't actually work. For example, Lance Armstrong (and everyone else in the Tour de France, and a bunch of people in MLB, and Football, etc).

Why? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#44334095)

From the summary it sounded like this would randomly choose which passengers get picked for extra screening. That makes sense and I can see why this would be helpful in ensuring that random screenings really are random.

However, the in the TSA's proposal, it sounds more like they want a device that chooses which line you go to for the normal screening. So rather than passengers (or a TSA agent) automatically balancing themselves across the lines, if several neophyte fliers end up in one line and cause a backlog, the system will continue to randomly assign people to that line even though the other checkpoints may be underutilized. Having TSA manually reroute people to one of the other lines would seem to negate any possible advantage this system would have since any terrorist that wants to game it would just have to enlist a few confederates to slow down the other lines. So this device will only serve to make checkpoints even more annoying than they are now "What do you mean I have to go to that line? There are 10 people waiting, but checkpoint three has only a single person in line!?".

What is the reasoning behind this? If it's to keep a terrorist from choosing the line that his friend works in so he can sneak his dangerous device past the x-ray, then the system is already broken since he'd have to compromise several agents to ensure that his friends are the only ones that can see the x-ray screen and if he's already compromised 2 or 3 TSA agents that are able to get themselves assigned to work at the same checkpoint, then surely those compromised TSA agents could figure out how to sneak the contraband past security and hand it to the terrorist on the other side.

Except (1, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44334099)

Except it won't keep people from being groped. That will be the end of the TSA, once enough people have been groped, they will oppose it.

Re:Except (3, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44334267)

I got modded down for some reason, but wow, the first time you get groped at the airport, it all changes from abstract theory to miserable reality. To feel the soft caresses of the male security guard as he brushes by your balls......

That is something that affects you.

As many have already said... (1)

gwolf (26339) | about a year ago | (#44334105)

In Mexico it's long been like that. But I think this makes Mr. Schneier a bit gullible — It is quite common to find experiences of people who are clearly "fast-tracked" into revision. Yes, I have had red lights several times, and it has some correlation with my age and looks at the time.

Re:As many have already said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334217)

Well of course you can still search anyone you want to out of the line.

I'd expect this to go forward so that when the stories about searching 80yr old grandmothers and infants pop up there is something else to blame.

Red channel/Green Channel (1)

andy1307 (656570) | about a year ago | (#44334153)

I think he's mistaken. There are two "channels" when you pass through customs. Red channels if you have something to declare. Green channel if you have nothing to declare. If you go through the red channel, you have to declare the good you are bringing into the country. Going through the green channel isn't a free pass. You could still get your bags inspected.

Bad news (1)

biometrizilla (1999728) | about a year ago | (#44334203)

If you're someone who is unlikely to be profiled (e.g. - white male) then the chances of getting randomly selected are higher than if there is no random selection so sucks for you.

Re:Bad news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334283)

In what airports do you travel? Four out of five last trips I have been pulled aside after going through the XXX scanners for an extra pat down. Three times TSA has left a note in my baggage. The last two trips on which I embarked, when departing, there was someone in front of me, and the other time, another three places behind me; both were white males going through the extra screening. I am, also, a white male. Though my observation is anecdotal, unless you have some data to back up your claim that white males are unlikely to be profiled, I will assume that your evidence too is purely anecdotal.

My experience and observations while moving through airport security stand in stark contrast to what you have posted above.

Re:Bad news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334369)

Lol not keeping up with the times are we? White males are getting plenty of scrutiny considering 99.999% of them are likely to be either anti-jihadists, converts to islam, neo-nazis, or sympathizers of any of the aforementioned categories. Stop accepting all that PC bullshit they're feeding you, it rots your brain.

Sure most of those are unlikely to suicide a plane but perhaps one should remember that's not their only option; "Attention, we are NOT going to crash this plane, remain calm or we will use deadly force". A locked or entirely separated cockpit matters squat for hostage taking considering modern technology.

I did that same thing 40 years ago.. (2)

the_rajah (749499) | about a year ago | (#44334213)

I worked for T.I. when they were making LED watches in the Dallas plant. Security asked me to design a random search generator hooked to a switch on a turnstile leaving the assembly area. They could select the search frequency by means of a DIP switch.

I'm not convinced (2)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#44334269)

My guess is that this creates a psychological game of chance that a would-be attacker might not risk; and perhaps searches are more thorough when personnel isn't having to rifle through *everyone's* stuff.

There are two things we know have strengthened security:

1) reenforced cockpit doors
2) passengers who know the deal and won't put up with any shit

We could make further *real* changes to improve security, like having highly trained and skilled air marshalls on every flight, hiring actual officers with actual skills to patrol airports instead of hiring glorified assembly line monkeys, searching bags strategically based on behavior and questioning ... but those things are just too expensive in the "wrong" way (ie.: they don't line the coffers of porno-scan manufacturers and the bureaucrats who do then favors; it would kill the job creation program for unskilled, slack-jawed mouth breathers)

Really now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334285)

It might not be security theatre but it is still security circus. Anyone think a dedicated terrorist of the muslim kind would care? If the light turns red just blow up then and there.

Re:Really now (2)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#44334603)

It might not be security theatre but it is still security circus. Anyone think a dedicated terrorist of the muslim kind would care? If the light turns red just blow up then and there.

Killing a dozen people at the terminal, instead of three hundred people on board an airplane. You just described the system working quite well at its job (keeping the airplane safe). Was that supposed to be an argument against it? It's supposed to be the airplane safe. It's not supposed to stop all terrorism. The people proposing this are well aware of the fact that no matter how much security you have at the airport, people can still blow themselves up somewhere (and frequently do -- busy markets are actually more frequent targets than aircraft). Not a pleasant fact, but beside the point here...

As important as bias and gaming the system... (1)

CFD339 (795926) | about a year ago | (#44334311)

...is that it's an anti-corruption mechanism. It's really hard to bribe the computer.

Years away? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334355)

Most 9 year olds could put this app together in 15 minutes.

I guess what takes the rest of the "years" to deploy is the endless committees..... sigh.

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