Feeds

TSA fails again with adjustable boarding passes

Lets passengers pick their own security rating

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The reputation of possibly America's least-favorite fondlers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has taken yet another hit with the discovery that its shoddy security allows passengers in its PreCheck system to pick their own security status.

PreCheck allows some frequent fliers willing to pay $100 for a background check to skip some of the onerous security checks, like taking off shoes and unpacking laptops or toiletries. PreCheck customers are still subject to more intensive searches on a randomized basis, however.

Aviation blogger John Butler discovered that the barcode information used for the boarding passes of Precheck fliers wasn't encoded, and could be read by a simple smartphone app. It contained the flier's name, flight details, and a number, either a one or a three, with the latter confirming the passenger was cleared for lesser screening.

It would be a relatively simple job to scan the issued boarding pass, decode it, and then change the security setting if you are planning to bring something naughty aboard, or even change the name on the ticket to match a fake ID. After putting the new information into a barcode, and a couple of minutes of cut and paste, the new boarding pass would work as normal, Butler explained.

"The really scary part is this will get past both the TSA document checker, because the scanners the TSA use are just barcode decoders, they don't check against the real time information," he said. "So the TSA document checker will not pick up on the alterations. This means, as long as they sub in 3 they can always use the Pre-Check line."

But the agency that appears to devote so much time to ogling (and possibly irradiating) fliers, fondling vibrators, promoting the homosexual agenda, or just plain stealing fliers' belongings doesn't seem to have thought of that. The TSA only deems it necessary to have barcode readers for checking the data itself against the presented ID, not the accuracy of boarding pass itself. Simply encrypting the data would also work.

According to the TSA's vision statement, the agency strives to "continuously set the standard for excellence in transportation security through its people, processes, and technology." ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.