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Two years ago, a blogger named Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video that seemed to show a facepalm-worthy vulnerability in the TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners: Because metal detected by the scanners appeared black in the images they created, he claimed that any passenger could hide a weapon on the side of his or her body to render it invisible against the scans’ black background. The TSA dismissed Corbett’s findings, and even called reporters to caution them not to cover his video.
Now a team of security researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins plans to reveal their own results from months of testing that same model of scanner. And not only did they find that Corbett’s weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone’s spine, installing malware on the scanner’s console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person’s body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine’s images.
The Rapiscan Secure 1000 machines the researchers tested haven’t actually been used in airports since last year, when they were replaced by millimeter wave scanners designed to better protect passengers’ privacy. But the X-ray scanners are still installed in courthouses, jails, and other government security checkpoints around the country.
Even more disturbingly, the researchers found they could easily conceal a 200 gram pancake of putty designed to have the same X-ray deflecting properties as plastic explosives by molding it around a passenger’s torso. The simulated bomb’s detonator, made from a different material, was hidden in the would-be bomber’s belly button.
originally posted by: captainmjp
Security at airports will never be perfect or without a little invasion of privacy. I do think the body scanners secure too little and invade too much. Thankfully, the actual checkpoint to the secure area of the airport is just one of many layers of airport security.
Here is a clip from one of my favorite South Park episodes on the matter. (Warning - its South Park)