Category: Air Travel

TSA News roundup

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TSA News roundup

Finally some humor from Lucas Cantor:

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and another:

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The TSA’s Approach to Threat Modeling

“I understand people’s frustrations, and what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive,” Obama said.

“But at this point, TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing.” (“Obama: TSA pat-downs frustrating but necessary“)

I’ve spent the last several years developing tools, techniques, methodologies and processes for software threat modeling. I’ve taught thousands of people more effective ways to threat model. I’ve released tools for threat modeling, and even a game to help people learn to threat model. (I should note here that I am not speaking for my employer, and I’m now focused on other problems at work.) However, while I worked on software threat modeling, not terror threat modeling, the President’s statement concerns me. Normally, he’s a precise speaker, and so when he says “effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing,” I worry.

In particular, the statement betrays a horrific backwards bias. The right question to ask is “will this mitigation protect the system against the attack and predictable improvements?” The answer is obviously “no.” TSA has smart people working there, why are they letting that be the headline question?

The problems are obvious. For example, in a Flyertalk thread, Connie asks: “If drug mules swallow drugs and fly, can’t terrorists swallow explosive devices?” and see also “New threat to travellers from al-Qaeda ‘keister bomb’.”

Half of getting the right answer is asking the right questions. If the question the President is hearing is “what can we do to protect against the threat that we saw in the Christmas day bombing (attempt)” then there are three possible interpretations. First is that the right question is being asked at a technical level, and the wrong question is being asked at the top. Second, the wrong questions are being asked up and down the line. Third is that the wrong question is being asked at the top, but it’s the right question for a TSA Administrator who wants to be able to testify before Congress that “everything possible was done.”

I’ve said before and I’ll say again, there are lots of possible approaches to threat modeling, and they all involve tradeoffs. I’ve commented that much of the problem is the unmeetable demands TSA labors under, and suggested fixes. If TSA is trading planned responses to Congress for effective security, I think Congress ought to be asking better questions. I’ll suggest “how do you model future threats?” as an excellent place to start.

Continuing on from there, an effective systematic approach would involve diagramming the air transport system, and ensuring that everyone and everything who gets to the plane without being authorized to be on the flight deck goes through reasonable and minimal searches under the Constitution, which are used solely for flight security. Right now, there’s discrepancies in catering and other servicing of the planes, there’s issues with cargo screening, etc.

These issues are getting exposed by the red teaming which happens, but that doesn’t lead to a systematic set of balanced defenses.

As long as the President is asking “Is this effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing?” we’ll know that the right threat models aren’t making it to the top.

Grope-a-thon: Today's TSA roundup

Grope up: Enough is Enough edition

Daily Grope Up

On a personal note, I sent email to a social mail list at work, and I’ve never gotten so much positive response. People care deeply, and haven’t known where to go to complain or how.

It's time to call your Senator!

There’s no news roundup today, the stories are flying, unlike people, who are sick and tired of the indignities, the nudeatrons and the groping. If you want to see them, you can follow me on twitter or National Opt Out day

Tomorrow, there’s a Transportation Security Administration Oversight Hearing whose only witness is TSA Administrator John Pistole. The good fellow over at opt out day has a list of Senators on the committee:

The committee chair is Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) phone (202) 224-6472. The ranking member is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922.

The subcommittee chair is Sen Byron L. Dorgon (D-ND) phone (202) 224-2551. The ranking member is Sen Jim DeMint (R-SC) phone (202) 224-6121.

Regardless of your home state, call the chairpersons to ask whether recent TSA abuses are on the agenda for the oversight hearing. Ask to speak with the staffer responsible for dealing with issues related to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Here is a list of committee members, their homepage and phone number. If one of these people is your Senator, please also phone them, either at the number below or look online to find their nearest local office – you can even visit in person. A constituent who knows a senator’s committee assignments and addresses issues for the agenda for a scheduled hearing gives him/herself an educated and powerful voice.

If none of these people is your senator, contact the committee chairs. Also contact your own senators and representative . They still need to hear your opinion, it’s just that they won’t be at this hearing.

D-AK Mark Begich (202) 224-3004

D-AR Mark Pryor (202) 224-2353
D-CA Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553
D-FL Bill Nelson 202-224-5274

D-HI Daniel K. Inouye (202) 224.3934
D-MA John F. Kerry [(202) 224-2742
D-MN Amy Klobuchar 202-224-3244

D-MO Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154
D-ND Byron L. Dorgon phone (202) 224-2551
D-NJ Frank R. Lautenberg (973) 639-8700, (888) 398-1642

D-NM Tom Udall (202) 224-6621
D-VA Mark Warner 202-224-2023
D-WA Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441

D-WV Jay Rockefeller (202) 224-6472

R-FL George S. LeMieux (202) 224-3041
R-GA Johnny Isakson (202) 224-3643

R-KS Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
R-LA David Vitter (202) 224-4623
R-ME Olympia J. Snowe (202) 224-5344, (800) 432-1599

R-MS Roger F. Wicker 202-224-6253
R-NE Mike Johanns (202) 224-4224
R-NV John Ensign (202) 224-6244

R-SC Jim DeMint phone (202) 224-6121
R-SD John Thune (202) 224-2321, 1-866-850-3855
R-TX Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922

Daily Grope-Up: The Groping Will Continue Until You Drive Edition

Lies, Damned Lies and TSA Statements: Today’s news grope-up

  • Earlier this week, the White House responded to the UC San Francisco faculty letter on nudatrons. (We mentioned that here.) National Academy of Sciences member John Sedat says “many misconceptions, and we will write a careful answer pointing out their errors.”
  • TSA has claimed that pictures will have blurred genital areas to “protect privacy.” Except as it turns out, they don’t, as documented by Dave ‘not very funny about this’ Barry in “Groin Update.” See also “So What Are We Able To See On The Body Scanner,” which would explain why a “blurred groin” is unusual.
  • TSA has also claimed that the naked pictures they take will be shown in a seperate room. As CMU professor Latanya Sweeny documents, they are visible to the public. Airport Body Scanner Disrupts Personal Security.
  • Despite TSa claims of equal treatment, Chris Soghoian reminds us that Congress and the cabinet don’t go through this.
  • TSA’s claims that they don’t store the images have not yet been publicly disproven.
  • All of which adds up to a great deal of national outrage:

    Reuters reports that, “Executives from the travel industry, including online travel sites, theme parks and hotels, were set to meet Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Pistole on Friday to discuss their concerns that security is crimping travel.”

    The feds were forced into action after five prominent pilot and travel associations, along with a flight attendants union, vowed to boycott naked body scanners as well as the new invasive pat down procedure, threatening travel chaos. The backlash has also been characterized by new cases of individuals being abused at the hands of the TSA, stories which continue to pour in on a daily basis.

Thanks to @ioerror, @nationaloptout, @samablog and to @boingboing for:

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