airport security still pretty weak



  • None.
I just flew home from Paris, with a stop in Montreal. I had to
clear customs and go through security again in Montreal, and
when I was doing that I found out that the battery in my normal
cell phone was completely dead (I had been using my European
phone), so I was unable to prove that it worked to the security
guy. (this was about 25 mins before my flight left.)

The guy said I just needed to go to the Air Canada desk, and they
would check it separately or something, and "it will only take
five minutes". I tried to go to the main check-in desk; on the way
there, I talked to some line gatekeeper kinda guy who said they
can't help me, and said they used to in the past but they lost
$30,000 in the last few months just from cell phones. (I didn't
quite catch what he meant, but... uh, dude, you know Air Canada
has been losing $1 mil every day for about a year now? What's
$30k in a few months?)

Anyway, I ignored him and made it to the check-in lady who said
"shure, no problem" and bounced me to "special services" around
the corner. I waited there for 10 minutes while the guy helped
someone in front of me, leisurely chatted with his buddy about
what time they should take their breaks, etc. When he got around
to me he said they can't help me, I should know better than to
try to bring a dead phone on board, etc.

Finally, 10 mins before my flight was scheduled to depart, I
decided I would just go back through security, and try a different
line -- sure enough, I got through with no hassle at all; just had
to power on my laptop to show that it works, and the guy completely
ignored my dead cell phone and all the other gadgetry in my pack
(including a video camera, digital still camera, laptop AC adapter,
extra laptop battery, ... each of which usually need to be
powered on and demo'd, in my experience.)

So what's the point of this whole exercise if people can just go
back and try a different line, and probably get through? There
were three other security lines that I didn't even need to try.
And you can increase your odds just by keeping a couple extra
distractions in your bag. (to demo my laptop, I had to swap batteries
first; after that, the guy probably figured he had kept me there
long enough already, and ignored all the other possibly dangerous
stuff in my pack.)

Oh... that reminds me, on my way to Europe I had two cell phones
and only one working battery, so to demo the second one I swapped
the battery into the other phone and powered it on; meanwhile,
the security guy basically ignored what I was doing, making that
whole exercise pointless as well -- I could easily have put the
battery back into the same phone, powered it on and declared
victory; surely a terrorist with even a tiny bit of training in
slight-of-hand techniques could get away with all kinds of
similar stuff.

Hmm... I could rant some more, but this has probably all been
said already anyway.

I just hate it when people are trained to religiously enforce
certain rules like "must see cell phone display worky" but don't
get trained at all about real security. I guess this is why people
have been saying we need to increase the level of skill/training
that airport security people have.

For some fantastic reading on airport security in light of the
Sept 11 attacks, I highly recommend Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram
of Sept 30, 2001:

Gerald Oskoboiny <[email protected]>

Re: airport security still pretty weak


  • None.


Yeah, I have seen some impressive things. I hve carried knives on a few
flights, and only found out afterwartds. Most of the time I don't even have
to turn my computer on. I have a bag full of interesting stuff, and hardly
ever have a hassle.

But if you start with a policy of harassing black people, like Heathrow has,
and then you increae it, it stands to reason that there won't be much of a

actually Heathrow is not so bad. But overall what is saving us is lack of
terrorists, not better security.


Charles McCathieNevile  phone: +61 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    fax: +1 617 258 5999
Location: 21 Mitchell street FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, Australia
(or W3C INRIA, Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France)

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