Adam Shostack on TSA Threat Modeling
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.
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