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TSA makes a hash of 'no-fly' redress site

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website has not been hacked by identity thieves, despite appearances to the contrary.

The TSA recently created a website to enable people wrongly listed on its infamous "no-fly list" to establish that they were not a security threat. They were invited to submit detailed and confidential information, on a site hosted by a third-party, Virginia-based web design company spelled Desyne.

But as originally set-up, data was submitted to the site through an insecure link. Worse, people who used the site typically did so after they had been delayed from boarding a plane. And there was a good possibilty that they submitted the data from an airline terminal, an unfamiliar location where they might be more likely to stray onto a bogus network set up to trick the unwary.

To the astute, the TSA site had all the hallmarks of a bogus site run by conmen and designed to harvest personal information. After the shortcomings of the TSA's site were highlighted - by Chris Soghoian, the boarding pass generator hacker - the site was moved onto a secure server (https://trip.dhs.gov/index.html). Problems remain: the site is still outsourced and continues to use cookies (a practice that runs counter to federal policy).

The TSA's security SNAFU is reminiscent of the mistakes made last month by the UK government in establishing a MI5's terror status mailing list. In that case users were only submitting their name and email address whereas the TSA website invites submission of a full spectrum of confidential data, including their date and place of birth, drivers license details and passport number, making the TSA's slip-up even more galling. ®

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