Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Air Travel Security: Practical Industry Suggestions From Us

I am just a security guy, as are many others who will read this. Perhaps it is time us "simple" security guys got together and write some recommendations for air travel security? Get our voice out there as an organized professional group, which can in turn lobby for our professional recommendations.

Then we can edit them, vote on them, and submit them to the government for consideration in the upcoming brouhaha of committee discussions.

Here are mine, just to get the ball rolling:

0. Review useless technologies which are there for beyond the security theater purposes (which do matter) and start eliminating bad projects. Your purpose in security theater was to maintain air travel and keep people calm, right?
1. An investment in better intelligence (no brainer)
2. Create a "always strip-search" list rather than just "no fly" list., so that lesser threats can be dealt with responsibly without compromising the usefulness of the no fly one. I am sure they already have one, but they should layer this rather than deal with extremes.
3. Hire better agents (education/ability... better pay). Should be a small increase per person, but it will cost a lot in total. Then again, how much do all the current b/s additions cost?
4. Yours?

1. Copy Israel's air security training manual for agents. Israel's tactics may not be able to scale to the US level, but the training can.
2. Stop panicking and alienating people, so they are calmer and you can more easily identify suspicious people, so that this new training is more effective. Heck, do it anyway. Send TSA agents to some workshop on being nice. Or make shifts shorter.
3. Put "human sniffer" walk-through machines in every airport, for international flights.
4. Buy the better brand of baggage screening && X-ray machines for international flights (remember the liquid issue with checking for explosives in the last scare?)
5. Some people suggested to start profiling and leave PC behind, but I'm not touching that.
6. Yours?

Some of these are very high cost. Some of these are (on scale) very low cost.
Some of these should replace other high-cost idiocies, such as creating two new mega-airports, which is sound security-wise, but will only add an hop to the threat to jump over, with the same silly tests in yet another airport, rather than add a filter. Or full-body scans which will be of limited help, and insult us all.

What are yours? Join the discussion!

Gadi Evron,

Follow me on twitter!


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I've always wondered why the airlines don't take advantage of the centuries of experience shared by their most frequent flyers and recruit volunteers from their (our) numbers to train to assist in emergencies of all kinds, including protection/security.


Nick Selby said...

Gadi, thanks for the topic; Wendy, your idea is great - we should make protecting ourselves and fellow passengers part of the contract for travel - in the same the way we agree, when we sit in an exit row, to be specifically helpful in case of an emergency. I'm all for leaning on the passengers much more: providing training and tactics for civilian defense of commercial aircraft.

laoqinyou said...

I think Wendy has a great idea. I know I am more or less parroting the great Bruce but I have thought for a long time that the TSA is more or less useless. If they are not useless, and do something useful, we should be told about it. Otherwise they are basically reacting to "zero-day" events and seem to be a serious and pointless encumbrance. No shoes. No liquids. No underwear? What next? Perhaps the TSA should be disbanded - recognize a poor idea amd start over. Perhaps taking advantage of fliers to watch out as Wendy suggests is one way to approach it. Perhaps put a cop on every plane? Something. I don't think banning laptops during the last hour (or kindles????) makes any sense. Making plane flights too hard to bear and making the entire travel/flight industry unprofitable doesn't seem like the best approach either when it gets down to it. The whole issue needs serious rethinking.

Barb Thomson said...

All comments posted so far are definitely noteworthy. Gadi - as I look at the past comments posted on this blog for various subjects, i don't see a lot of feedback. How about another arena for this conversation? Send it out to your meetings mailing list too. I agree with making recommendations. There are a lot of influential folks in the group that could deliver it to those that could use it. How about inviting members of Committees on Air Traffic Control Security to a meeting to hear some of these suggestions and discuss them with the security professionals when they are drafted? I, for one, would rather strip every time i go through security than to worry about what someone is hiding. Wendy's suggestion about recruiting volunteers is excellent. Where can we sign up? Gadi - concerning Israel's manual - is it on the web? I agree with paying these folks more money. You could compare it to the pittance we pay teachers - you are only dealing with our children's lives or our lives! You get what you pay for. Lastly, no one will have all of the solutions but as Wendy stated, those of us who fly a lot could surely contribute.

laoqinyou said...

I don't see why "profiling" has to be something that is not done btw. Does not doing profiling imply "not doing statistics"? How the heck can you deal with a problem like this and ignore any/all statistically useful mechanisms? E.g., someone pointed out in a column that in this case: 1. the person in question got into the system in Nigeria which was alleged to have a dubious record in terms of check-ins, 2. paid cash, and 3. had no luggage. Of course the current international system has a lot in common with the US health care system (badly organized data-wise and computer infrastructure seems to involve pounding rocks and using ouija boards). It is hard to understand why a 65 year old grandma in Kansas City has to frisked as a result and is not allowed hand lotion. One suggestion then: improve the airline computer infrastructure and use some machine intelligence to try and recognize various factors that might make a passenger more dangerous or LESS dangerous. Or
if this is done -- improve it.
I am a minor machine intelligence person -- surely some algorithm tinkering could be done?
And surely this is more reasonable privacy-wise than requiring nude air travel?