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Homeland Security finds 'vulnerabilities' in airport body scanners

Homeland Security finds 'vulnerabilities' in airport body scanners


A classified report by the Department of Homeland Security notes eight recommendations to fix vulnerabilities in full-body scanners used by the Transportation Security Administration in many airports.

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A classified report from late 2011 apparently outlined several vulnerabilities in the advanced imaging technology (AIT) full-body scanners used in many American airports, lending credence to criticism of the Transportation Security Administration. The report, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, wasn't released to the public for security purposes, but a short unclassified version was recently found by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. After monitoring the AIT screening process in several domestic airports, the Office "identified vulnerabilities in the screening process at the passenger screening checkpoint."

"As a result of our testing, we made eight recommendations and TSA concurred with all the recommendations," said the report. These eight recommendations will probably remain a mystery, although they apparently dealt with either "the effectiveness of TSA’s AIT units used at passenger screening checkpoints and its specific screening procedures" or "whether Transportation Security Officers followed the established policies and procedures for the technology."

It's possible the recommendations will simply involve better training or other minor details, but they may also deal with more substantial flaws. In March, for example, blogger Jonathan Corbett posted a video that allegedly showed him fooling the scanners with hidden side pockets. At the time, a TSA spokesperson called the scanners "one of the most effective tools available," although upgrades — like a system that replaced actual scanned images of passengers with more abstract avatars — were being implemented. EPIC has told Wired that it's planning to file a Freedom of Information Act claim to obtain the full report, but we wouldn't expect results in the near future.