Cheetah July 29, 2011 1:55 PM

Simple defensive step: have the zip tie anchor the zippers not just to each other, but also to some fixed point on the bag. Most bags have some rings and such things that you could use for that.

Patrix July 29, 2011 2:06 PM

The simple defense won’t stop anybody from opening the luggage at all. But this things are not safe anyway.

Brent Longborough July 29, 2011 2:49 PM

Bruce, sorry to be a grump, but wasting my bandwidth with an advert for Deodorant for Council House tenants really sucks…

DGenerateKane July 29, 2011 3:41 PM

I don’t know about other airports, but my piddly little local airport (which has very lax security restrictions compared to other major ones) requires any locks to be removed before accepting them.

SomeGuy July 29, 2011 5:21 PM

If you’re going to link to a video with advertisements, please at least put a heads up that it’s a video. The audio blast of the ad caught the attention of at least 3 co-workers.

(And I’m on break, so lay off the “you ought to be working” crap, commenters!)

Concerned Public

MarkP July 29, 2011 6:57 PM

That method does in fact damage the zipper. It stresses the slider so that it is more likely to jam or fail in the future.

In this case, TSA should have cut off the lock and noted it. Of course, the guy who stole the laser should have been fired and prosecuted — like that’s going to happen.

Richard Steven Hack July 29, 2011 7:13 PM

I agree with Mark P. Half the time these cheap luggage zipper can’t even close normally without getting stuck because of the flexibility of the zipper. I’d hate to try to get one open by this method and then close it securely again.

I’d be caught by those hearing all the swearing…

Bruce Schneier July 29, 2011 8:40 PM

Sorry, people. I didn’t see the advertisements. It must have been blocked by some plug-in or another.

bcs July 29, 2011 10:32 PM

I’m thinking some pairs of grommets at each corner might be the way to go.

As for things going missing: Why the heck isn’t the TSA required to have that form stamped with an inspector ID or something?

Thai-Spy July 29, 2011 10:52 PM

An entirely reasonable question @bcs.

The person who opens your bag should be on the record, and by opening your bag become entirely responsible for the contents.

Every bag opening should be recorded with the clip available online to the traveler.

Gweihir July 30, 2011 12:16 AM

You can re-close the zipper, even with the zip-tie fixed. It just takes a bit longer and requires a few tools, depending on the zipper in question. Needles, needle-nose pliers, small hooks and the like, nothing exotic. You only need them to finally close the last 1-2 cm. Re-zipping most of the zipper can be done with a modified zip-tie for a similar zipper, held together, e.g. by a clamp.

anon July 30, 2011 2:07 AM

For the video advertisement, I think it’s randomly placed. Like Bruce, I also didn’t encounter any advertisement.

Some other sites that hosts videos also do the same thing. You might chance watching a few videos w/o ads and the next you watch will have one.

As for the hack, I think the suggestion to secure the zipper slider in place is a good way of preventing tampering/theft that tries to avoid detection.

Chasmosaur July 30, 2011 10:49 AM

First – I thought this would be something different. This trick is as old as the hills. It’s why you never pack anything valuable in your checked luggage. And even with scrupulously honest luggage handlers, luggage handling is rough and there’s no saying your bag won’t come unzipped on it’s own.

If you’re that concerned, buy a heavy-duty trunk with hasps for padlocks, pre-ship it to your destination or pay the over-sized luggage fees. Otherwise, this is the risk of putting your luggage in someone else’s hands. (And there’s no saying they won’t just hack the lock anyway – Google “figure out combination lock” for a dizzying array of techniques.)

Second – In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, you couldn’t even check luggage with locks that weren’t TSA friendly when flying through DCA. The gate agents asked you to remove them, because they said TSA would probably just cut them off anyway.

I don’t think I own any luggage locks without the TSA key anymore. And I only use them to keep my zipper tabs from separating during luggage handling – I’ve been known to use twisty-ties if I can’t find a lock.

IHateTheTSA July 30, 2011 11:20 AM

I travel a lot for business (+900k miles on United, +750k on AA, etc) and I always carry a knife. So I started checking my bag so I could put the knife in it.

Four years ago my knife kept disappearing. I would buy another one and sure enough it would disappear next time I flew from DEN. This happened about 7 times. I would always complain to the TSA and they would always tell me to go pound sand (no videos of the baggage inspectors are available, no Denver police cant investigate, etc.).

So I printed out a sign in big letters on an 8×11 piece of paper and started putting in on top of my clothes in my bag. It said: “ATTENTION TSA: STOP STEALING MY SHIT”.

Ever since I started doing that, I have never had anything go missing from my bag.

john Henry July 30, 2011 7:15 PM

It doesn’t help with TSA and I try never to check bags anyway.

What I do to secure my carryon bag in hotels is to carry a length of steel cable with a loop in both ends and a regular full size padlock.

The cable I had made up at a West Marine store out of 3/32 stainless rigging.

It goes around the suitcase ends, through handles, then crossways around like you would tie a package. The combo lock locks everything together.

Even if they open the zipper, they can’t completely open the top and can only reach in and feel around.

I don’t know if it actually makes me any safer but it does make me feel a bit safer.

It goes inside my carryon and I’ve never had it questioned by TSA. The cable would make a pretty nice garrote but since it does not have an edge on it and is not liquid, they apparently feel OK with it.

John Henry

yt August 1, 2011 4:07 AM

This hadn’t occurred to me, despite all the zipper failures (due to regular wear and tear) I’ve had on bags over the years. All the same, I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s a fabric bag that closes with zippers; I don’t really expect it to provide high security. I’m satisfied if it maintains its integrity enough to get my belongings onto the plane and keep them from ending up littered around the baggage hold. I already know not to put anything valuable into my checked luggage. My biggest concern is not having something taken, but rather having something placed into my bag. It’s really hard to prove that something in your bag (especially your locked bag) wasn’t put there by you.

That said, if someone is really determined to get into your suitcase, they will. On one trip to visit the in-laws, I took an old pre-TSA hard-sided suitcase with non-approved (i.e. not bypassable by the TSA) locks. During my visit, I kept the suitcase locked to keep my in-laws out of it. I think I forgot to unlock it before checking in for my flight. When my luggage arrived, the suitcase had clearly been opened. It looked like an unsuccessful attempt had been made to open the locks. The suitcase had apparently been opened by disassembling the hinge on the bottom: the fabric covering the hinge was not attached correctly, there were some loose screws, there were some loose rubber gaskets, and there was (rain?)water inside my suitcase.

These days, I pretty much pack on the assumption that my bag will be opened. Packing in plastic zipper bags maximizes the chance that your belongings (especially small items) will make it back into the bag.

P.S. I also didn’t get any ads when I viewed the video.

AlsoHateTSA August 1, 2011 4:10 AM

On a recent flight I had the TSA clip my bag open. They didn’t clip the lock, which would have been cheap and easy to replace. Instead, they chose to clip the ring on the zipper through which the lock passes…

I’d like to charge them to replace the bag itself!

Dilbert August 1, 2011 1:23 PM

@Thai Spy,

What a great idea! A Chain-of-Custody form for the TSA to send along with your luggage… I like it!

Dirk Praet August 2, 2011 3:17 AM

@ IHatetheTSA

“Ever since I started doing that, I have never had anything go missing from my bag. ”

Perhaps they just started to put things in, monitoring your every move and carefully building a nice file to crucify you with on grounds of unpatriotic behaviour.

IMHO, it’s pretty much pointless to try and physically secure your luggage when flying. You only risk having it damaged when force-opened by TSA and their counterparts in other parts of the world. The only valid deterrent from theft I see is to pack some hidden audio/video recording device being triggered when the luggage is opened and capable of uploading directly to the internet or some other channel. Pretty much like the small wireless webcams I recently installed at my place.

wallace Z August 2, 2011 3:42 AM

“Perhaps they just started to put things in, monitoring your every move and carefully building a nice file to crucify you with on grounds of unpatriotic behaviour.”
@IHateTheTsa, does happen alot, how do you get 30,000 picture on a 1gb usb stick that you don’t know are there until you use r-studio or some frenisc tool to recover data from, and they all happen to be corrupted.
Then again a 330mb jpg could have been a zip file

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