Orlando Airport is piloting a new pre-screening program called CLEAR. The idea is that you pay $80 a year and subject yourself to a background check, and then you can use a faster security line at airports.
I’ve already written about this idea, back when Steven Brill first started talking about it:
My primary security concerns surrounding this system stem from what it’s trying to do. In his writings and speaking, Brill is very careful to explain that these are not “trusted traveler cards.” He calls them “verified identity cards.” But the only purpose of his card is to divide people into two lines — a fast line and a slow line, a “search less” line and a “search more” line, or whatever….
The reality is that the existence of the card creates a third, and very dangerous, category: bad guys with the card. Timothy McVeigh would have been able to get one of these cards. The DC sniper and the Unabomber would have been able to get this card. Any terrorist mole who hasn’t done anything yet and is being saved for something big would be able to get this card. Some of the 9/11 terrorists would have been able to get this card. These are people who are deemed trustworthy by the system even though they are not.
And even worse, the system lets terrorists test the system beforehand. Imagine you’re in a terrorist cell. Twelve of you apply for the card, but only four of you get it. Those four not only have a card that lets them go through the easy line at security checkpoints; they also know that they’re not on any terrorist watch lists. Which four do you think will be going on the mission? By “pre-approving” trust, you’re building a system that is easier to exploit.
Nothing in this program is different from what I wrote about last year. According to their website:
Your Membership will be continuously reviewed by TSA’s ongoing Security Threat Assessment Process. If your security status changes, your Membership will be immediately deactivated and you will receive a notification email of your status change as well as a refund of the unused portion of your annual enrollment fee.
Think about it. For $80 a year, any potential terrorist can be automatically notified if the Department of Homeland Security is on to him. Such a deal.
Posted on August 8, 2005 at 8:03 AM •
Several of the 9/11 terrorists had Virginia driver’s licenses in fake names. These were not forgeries; these were valid Virginia IDs that were illegally sold by Department of Motor Vehicle workers.
So what did Virginia do to correct the problem? They required more paperwork in order to get an ID.
But the problem wasn’t that it was too easy to get an ID. The problem was that insiders were selling them illegally. Which is why the Virginia “solution” didn’t help, and the problem remains:
The manager of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office at Springfield Mall was charged yesterday with selling driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and others for up to $3,500 apiece.
The arrest of Francisco J. Martinez marked the second time in two years that a Northern Virginia DMV employee was accused of fraudulently selling licenses for cash. A similar scheme two years ago at the DMV office in Tysons Corner led to the guilty pleas of two employees.
And after we spend billions on the REAL ID act, and require even more paperwork to get a state ID, the problem will still remain.
Posted on July 19, 2005 at 1:15 PM •
I’ve already written about what a bad idea trusted traveler programs are. The basic security intuition is that when you create two paths through security — an easy path and a hard path — you invite the bad guys to take the easy path. So the security of the sort process must make up for the security lost in the sorting. Trusted traveler fails this test; there are so many ways for the terrorists to get trusted traveler cards that the system makes it too easy for them to avoid the hard path through security.
The trusted traveler programs at various U.S. airports are all run by the TSA. A new program in Orlando Airport is run by the company Verified Identity Pass Inc.
I’ve already written about this company and what it’s doing.
And I’ve already written about the fallacy of confusing identification with security.
Posted on June 12, 2005 at 8:57 AM •
From Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason (Villard, 2003):
Nothing works more in a thief’s favor than people feeling secure. That’s why places that are heavily alarmed and guarded can sometimes be the easiest targets. The single most important factor in security — more than locks, alarms, sensors, or armed guards — is attitude. A building protected by nothing more than a cheap combination lock but inhabited by people who are alert and risk-aware is much safer than one with the world’s most sophisticated alarm system whose tenants assume they’re living in an impregnable fortress.
The author, a burglar, found that luxury condos were an excellent target. Although they had much more security technology than other buildings, they were vulnerable because no one believed a thief could get through the lobby.
Posted on December 17, 2004 at 9:21 AM •
Prisoner is freed from jail based on a forged fax:
In West Memphis District Court yesterday, Tristian Wilson was set to appear on the docket for a bond hearing on the charges. When he did not appear, Judge William “Pal” Rainey inquired about his release and found that a jail staff member released Wilson by the authority of a fax sent to the jail late Saturday night.
According to Assistant Chief Mike Allen, a fax was sent to the jail which stated “Upon decision between Judge Rainey and the West Memphis Police Department CID Division Tristian Wilson is to be released immediately on this date of October 30, 2004 with a waiver of all fines, bonds and settlements per Judge Rainey and Detective McDugle.”
Jail Administrator Mickey Thornton said that these faxes are part of a normal routine for the jail when it comes to releasing prisoners, however, this fax was different.
Faxes are fascinating. They’re treated like original documents, but lack any of the authentication mechanisms that we’ve developed for original documents: letterheads, watermarks, signatures. Most of the time there’s no problem, but sometimes you can exploit people’s innate trust in faxes to good effect.
Posted on November 8, 2004 at 7:12 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.