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A computer security researcher who created a Web page designed to allow anyone to generate and print out a fake boarding pass for Northwest Airlines got a visit from the FBI yesterday, following public calls for his arrest by a prominent Democratic congressman.
Christopher Soghoian, a 24-year-old Ph.D. student at Indiana University's School of Informatics, published an interactive page on his Web site that produced a bogus boarding pass that could be used to gain access to an airport's boarding gate. The pass would not actually permit someone to board a plane. Soghoian said the fake pass would "allow you to sneak under the radar of the [Transportation Security Administration's] no-fly list, and while it is more complex, it will allow you to go through the TSA checkpoint without raising any red flags."
A screenshot taken from Soghoian's Web site before his boarding pass feature was taken down late Friday.Soghoian said he was publishing the tool to call attention to anti-terrorist procedures at airports that he said were designed to make passengers feel safer but did little to stop determined bad guys from circumventing the checks. He explained how a fake boarding pass might help a known terrorist evade the TSA's no-fly list:
On Friday I urged the Bush Administration to ‘apprehend’ and shut down whoever had created a new website that enabled persons without a plane ticket to easily fake a boarding pass and use it to clear security, gain access to the boarding area and potentially to the cabin of a passenger plane. Subsequently I learned that the person responsible was a student at Indiana University, Christopher Soghoian, who intended no harm but, rather, intended to provide a public service by warning that this long-standing loophole could be easily exploited. The website has now apparently been shut down.
Under the circumstances, any legal consequences for this student must take into account his intent to perform a public service, to publicize a problem as a way of getting it fixed. He picked a lousy way of doing it, but he should not go to jail for his bad judgment. Better yet, the Department of Homeland Security should put him to work showing public officials how easily our security can be compromised.
It remains a fact that fake boarding passes can be easily created and the integration of terrorist watch lists with boarding security is still woefully inadequate. The best outcome of Mr. Soghoian’s ill-considered demonstration would be for the Department of Homeland Security to close these loopholes immediately.
Source: Christopher Soghoian's blog slightparanoia.blogspot.com...