• Aviation securityWhy banning laptops from airplane cabins doesn’t make sense

    By Cassandra Burke Robertson and Irina D. Manta

    Recent reports suggest that terrorists can now create bombs so thin that they cannot be detected by the current X-ray screening that our carry-on bags undergo. In an effort to protect against such threats, the U.S is considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices in the passenger cabins of airplanes flying between Europe and the United States. This would extend a ban already in place on flights from eight Middle Eastern countries. It is tempting to think that any level of cost and inconvenience is sensible if it reduces the risk of an attack even a little. But risks, inherent in flying and even driving, can never be avoided entirely. So when weighing policies that are designed to make us safer, it is important to consider both their costs and potential effectiveness. Unfortunately, whether the benefits justify the costs is too often not the yardstick used by officials determining whether to pursue these types of policies. Instead, it is more likely that political considerations motivate the adoption of restrictive policies, which in the end actually do little to protect citizens’ security.

  • ScreeningLawsuits filed about electronic privacy, profiling abuses at borders, airports

    Earlier this week, two lawsuits were filed in federal court to demand that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) release information about how federal officials have treated travelers who are Muslim or who are perceived to be Muslim at United States borders, including airports. The lawsuits highlight the numerous recent reports of individuals who are or are perceived to be Muslim having their electronic devices searched while traveling or having their trusted traveler status revoked without explanation.

  • AviationU.S. considering extending electronic-device flight ban to European travelers

    Passengers flying from the United Kingdom to the United States may soon be barred from carrying their laptops with them, U.K. government officials said Monday. U.K. government sources said they were advised by American security officials that the Trump administration is planning on enforce the electronic device ban on flights from several European countries. The ban, if implemented, will go into effect before the busy summer travel season begins.

  • Explosives detectionDHS S&T opens new explosives detection lab

    DHS S&T officially opened a new Test & Evaluation Laboratory building at the Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL) on Wednesday. Located at the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, the new building expands TSL’s reinforced laboratory space for conducting tests of explosives detection systems. TSL is the only laboratory authorized to provide certification and qualification testing of explosives detection systems for the TSA.

  • Airport securityNew training system improves airport screening efficiency, accuracy

    Among the many tasks assigned to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), they must screen every bag boarding commercial aircraft within the United States. Visual search of X-ray images is a repetitive task for the approximately 50,000 screeners employed by TSA, with an often low probability of encountering a threat. TSOs are trained to use perceptual cues such as color, orientation and spatial location of individual items to identify potential threats and differentiate them from non-threat items in the X-ray images of scanned bags. DHS S&T’s Office for Public Safety Research (OPS-R) developed a training system that not only makes TSOs more efficient, but also maintains their accuracy.

  • AviationU.S.-bound flights from airports in 8 Muslim-majority countries to ban devices larger than cellphone on board

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has instructed airlines to block passengers traveling to the United States from ten airports in eight Muslim-majority countries from bringing laptops, iPads, Kindles, and cameras on board. Passengers boarding U.S.-bound planes at these airports – located in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — will no longer be allowed to carry with them into the cabin any electronic or electrical device larger than a cellphone. All electronic and electric devices, with the exception of cellphones, will have to be checked.

  • AviationTechnology experts question device ban

    The decision by DHS to ban passengers, boarding U.S.-bound planes at ten airports in eight Muslim-majority countries, from carrying in electric or electronic devices larger than a cellphone into the cabin, is criticized by technology experts who say the new rules appear to be at odds with basic computer science. Another line of criticism suggests that the ban may have less to do with security and more to do with the Trump’s administration’s plan to play hard ball with countries subsidizing major industries in order to gain a competitive advantage over U.S. companies.

  • Airport securityTSA continues to use unscientific, unreliable program blamed for profiling

    Thousands of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers use so-called “behavior detection” techniques to scrutinize travelers for yawning, whistling, being distracted, arriving late for a flight, and scores of other behaviors that the TSA calls signs of deception or “mal-intent.” The officers then flag certain people for additional screening and questioning. Documents the ACLU has obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that the TSA itself has plenty of material showing that such techniques are not grounded in valid science — and they create an unacceptable risk of racial and religious profiling. Indeed, TSA officers themselves have said that the program has been used to do just that.

  • Real IDAirports post REAL ID deadline warning signs

    Many U.S. airports have posted signs to alert travelers that beginning 22 January 2018, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will begin to enforce the REAL ID requirements at airport security checkpoints. DHS says that a year from now, passengers presenting a driver’s license or identification card from states not in compliance with the REAL ID Act’s security standards — states, that is, which have not received an extension from DHS — may not be allowed to board.

  • PrivacyLegacy travel booking systems do not protect travelers’ private information

    Travel bookings worldwide are maintained in a handful of systems. The three largest — Global Distributed Systems (GDS) Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport — administer more than 90 percent of flight reservations as well as numerous hotel, car, and other travel bookings. The most important security feature lacking from all three GDSs is a proper way to authenticate travelers.

  • Border securityRobotic lie detector for border, aviation security

    When you engage in international travel, you may one day find yourself face-to-face with border security that is polite, bilingual and responsive — and robotic. The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR) is currently being tested in conjunction with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) to help border security agents determine whether travelers coming into Canada may have undisclosed motives for entering the country.

  • Airport securityTSA could save money by waiving PreCheck fees for frequent travelers

    There is an easy way to reduce lines at the airport, increase security and save the Transportation Security Administration money, according to a new study: waive the $85 fee for frequent fliers to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program, which allows pre-screened, verified travelers to go through expedited security at airports.

  • AviationColombia plane crash: how can people survive deadly air disasters?

    By Graham Braithwaite

    A plane crash in Colombia has killed 71 people including most of one of Brazil’s top football teams, leaving just six survivors. While the investigation may take some time to reveal the factors behind the accident, the distressingly high – but not total – number of fatalities raises the question of how some people are able to survive such a devastating disaster. When an accident occurs, what is it that determines that some passengers survive when many others on the same flight do not?

  • AviationInnovative technologies sought for aviation security

    A £2 million competition to help find new ways to protect air passengers has been announced by the U.K. government’s Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS) team. The Home Office and Department for Transport team have jointly launched a competition through the Center for Defense Enterprise (CDE) as part of its wider FASS program worth £25.5 million until 2021. Suppliers are being asked to develop truly innovative technologies, with a focus on people, baggage, and cargo security.

  • Bermuda TriangleBermuda Triangle mystery may have been solved

    It is estimated that over the last 100 years, hundreds of ships, at least 75 planes, and thousands of lives have been lost art the Bermuda Triangle. A group of satellite meteorologists may have solved the mystery of the triangle: Hexagonal clouds, creating “air-bombs” with winds of up to 170mph, capable of plunging planes into the sea and flipping ships, are said to be behind the mysterious disappearances at sea.