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Re: Airport x-ray software creating images of phantom weapons?
From: Joel Merrick <joel () servicestyle com>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 10:46:50 +0000

On Tue, 2004-11-16 at 05:08 +0000, Jason Coombs wrote:
My flight into Midway airport, Chicago, just sat on the runway for nearly two hours tonight because of a potential 
security breach in the terminal, described here:


A Transportation Security Administration representative at Midway airport confirmed for me that the suspicious object 
displayed on the computerized x-ray machine may have been a phantom image similar to the one in Miami on November 

Software glitch in security scanner at Miami airport 'projected the image of a weapon' that didn't exist

Why are we replacing perfectly good analog video displays with computer-generated displays for security-related data??

Haven't enough people learned yet that whenever you digitize something you render it unreal and vulnerable?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

If the devices create phantoms by design, why would they not also obey commands to display arbitrary replacement 
images when some non-TEMPEST-hardened component is blasted with RF from within the x-ray scanning chamber?

Do such transportation security technologies really benefit from technical obscurity? Why not publish the design, 
specs and source code for analysis and for all to see?

He he, there's about as much chance of that as there is the voting
machines getting their 'specs' published.

Maybe it'll get leaked on the net and we'll find out they use a hard
coded DES key that I could crack with my casio watch ;)

Security improvements in such devices are presently limited to those companies that have the contracts to build and 
deploy them, or infosec firms that audit and pen test them in secret.

Like electronic voting machines, this is a misguided, unnecessary, and counter-productive “innovation for the sake of 
change or profit” and it makes no sense. But of course it isn't going to stop, and the security vendor with the best 
technology is as likely to win contracts in transportation security as in any other industry. (Not)

If quality is the true objective, then perhaps we should adopt exceptions to intellectual property laws to force into 
the public domain any creative work that has the capability to impact the “security” of anything important...


Jason Coombs
jasonc () science org
Joel Merrick

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