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Bruce Schneier On Airport Security 582

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the he-should-know dept.
the4thdimension writes "Bruce Schneier has an opinion piece on CNN this morning that illustrates his view on airport security. Given that he has several books on security, his opinion carries some weight. In the article, Bruce discusses the rarity of terrorism, the pitfalls of security theater, and the actual difficulty surrounding improving security. What are your thoughts? Do you think that we can actually make air travel (and any other kind of travel, for that matter) truly secure?"
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Bruce Schneier On Airport Security

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  • Uh No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spribyl (175893) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:21PM (#30584376)

    Terrorists are like fools, they will always build a better one.
    How about we treat the problem instead of the symptom. Give them something to loose or care about. When you have nothing you have nothing to loose.

    • Re:Uh No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rei (128717) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:24PM (#30584416) Homepage

      We do all of these stupid things to pretend to have security that even the most brain-dead terrorist could work around.

      Can't bring liquids on board? Sure, but you can bring freeze-dried watermelon that you've reconstituted with a liquid of your choice onboard. Any sort of saturated porous or fibrous solid is fine. You can bring any sort of solid hydrate with you, too. Heck, on my way back from Christmas, I realized that I had reusable heat packs in my pockets, and that those were liquid. To keep them? I simply activated them so that they crystalized (releasing heat). Bam -- they're no longer liquids. But they're the exact same stuff.

      Can't bring knives on board? Heck, I had a freaking dull garden spade confiscated from me, as though I was going to hijack a plane with a dull spade. But you can sure as heck bring a glass or ceramic plate or other such object and break it into long, heavy, surgically-sharp shards in a cloth towel. You can also bring any sort of electronics or other devices with you whose internal frame components are made of long, sharp pieces of metal. Even if you personally sharpened them.

      Do they think terrorists are retarded? Do they think that they can't figure this sort of stuff out? No, they'd rather just put on this "Security Theatre" and inconvenience millions upon millions of travelers for no damned reason.

      If they actually cared about security, it would be obvious: the approach to dealing with threats would be proactive, not reactive. It wouldn't be a case of, "someone tried to blow up a plane with shoes? Everyone has to take their shoes off". Taking shoes off would come before someone tried it. Same with liquids and all of these other ridiculous regulations. They're just trying to pretend that they're on top of it, when what they're doing isn't helping anyone. It's just making flying a pain in the arse.

      One of these days, when I have enough time before a plane flight, I'm going to follow the letter of the rules while showing off (in a non-threatening manner) how easily they can be worked around: by attempting to cook a full four-course meal onboard a plane during the flight from my coach seat ;) Electric or allowed-chemical heat (no flames), minimal cook times, liquids pre-stored in dehydrated food or reconstituted from powders and water-fountain water past the security checkpoint, etc.

      • Re:Uh No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:34PM (#30584558) Journal

        If they actually cared about security, it would be obvious: the approach to dealing with threats would be proactive, not reactive. It wouldn't be a case of, "someone tried to blow up a plane with shoes? Everyone has to take their shoes off". Taking shoes off would come before someone tried it. Same with liquids and all of these other ridiculous regulations. They're just trying to pretend that they're on top of it, when what they're doing isn't helping anyone. It's just making flying a pain in the arse.

        I think you missed Schneier's point, if you RTFA.

        The approach to dealing with threats should be intelligence gathering, our criminal justice system, and resilience in response to successful attacks.

        A proactive approach that you suggest would require listing possible attack vectors, then taking action to prevent each of them. Carried to its logical conclusion, we'd all have to board planes naked (you could strangle someone with the elastic band from your underwear!), or even restrained (hands are weapons too!) in order to prevent terrorist actions on planes.

        It's simply unreasonable to take that kind of preventative action.

        In truth, (and one of Schneier's points), we cannot realistically defend against all attack vectors. To try to do so is pointless, except that it gives people a feeling of security. True defense against terrorism isn't served by reactive restrictions, nor by proactive restrictions -- unless they absolutely limit our ability to conduct regular tasks.

        You're right, though, what they're doing isn't helping and is a royal pain in the ass. But the solution is not to become proactive in travel restrictions. It's most of what Schneier wrote in the piece.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rei (128717)

          There is nothing wrong with listing possible attack vectors -- that should be the goal. Each should be weighed in terms of order of likelyhood, and any that are justified to merit preventive action should be handled.

          Now, the author is arguing that that bar on what merits action should be low. I agree. But if it's going to be high, as it currently is, it should not simply be based on "what they did last time".

        • Re:Uh No (Score:5, Funny)

          by D Ninja (825055) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:19PM (#30585124)

          we'd all have to board planes naked (you could strangle someone with the elastic band from your underwear!)

          They still wouldn't let me board the plane as security would quickly realize I could still strangle people...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shadowbearer (554144)

              Now you've gone and done it.

              All of the people with *any* history of martial arts training aren't going to be able to fly at all. I'm sure just about every politician out there has seen at least *one* martial arts movie with the hero in it killing dozens of *armed people* without a scratch on him or her.

              Chuck Norris is going to be PISSED OFF.

            SB

             

      • Re:Uh No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nodwick (716348) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:48PM (#30584750)

        One of these days, when I have enough time before a plane flight, I'm going to follow the letter of the rules while showing off (in a non-threatening manner) how easily they can be worked around

        You don't even have to work around the list of things you can't carry on board; items on the list get missed all the time. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic had an article from last year [theatlantic.com] detailing all the things he's managed to sneak onto planes, including pocketknives, matches from hotels in Beirut and Peshawar, cigarette lighters, nail clippers, bottles of Fiji Water, and box cutters. He's even brought two cans' worth of beer through security by wearing a Beerbelly [thebeerbelly.com] under his clothes and walking it through the metal detector. And this in spite of the fact that he was selected for secondary inspection at the time he was wearing it.

        He's also tried forging and printing out his own boarding pass (with help from Bruce Schneier) and getting through security with it, with similar results:

        I would try to pass through security with no ID, a fake boarding pass, and an Osama bin Laden T-shirt under my coat. I splashed water on my face to mimic sweat, put on a coat (it was a summer day), hid my driver's license, and approached security with a bogus boarding pass that Schneier had made for me. I told the document checker at security that I had lost my identification but was hoping I would still be able to make my flight. He said I'd have to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor arrived; he looked smart, unfortunately. I was starting to get genuinely nervous, which I hoped would generate incriminating micro-expressions. "I can't find my driver's license," I said. I showed him my fake boarding pass. "I need to get to Washington quickly," I added. He asked me if I had any other identification. I showed him a credit card with my name on it, a library card, and a health-insurance card. "Nothing else?" he asked.

        "No," I said.

        "You should really travel with a second picture ID, you know."

        "Yes, sir," I said.

        "All right, you can go," he said, pointing me to the X-ray line. "But let this be a lesson for you."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I disagree. And Napolitano's "It's working" would be right if the "It's" she's referring to is the traveling public. Tim Lister put it better than I've ever heard. He said "The problem is that there was a fundamental flaw in our thinking. On September 10th, 2001, we assumed that everyone who got on an airplane, wanted to get off alive. Now we know better."
      • Re:Uh No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:45PM (#30584690)
        On September 10, 2001, the intelligence agencies knew that Osama bin Laden's men were in the country, that they were going to participate in a major attack, and that they were planning to use airplanes in the attack. The people who could have done something about it were not assuming that everyone who got on an airplane wanted to get off of it alive; after decades of dealing with suicide bombers in the middle east, why would anyone assume that bin Laden's men were hoping to survive their own attack?

        The only difference between then and now is that these days, the government pretends to be working to keep us safe, and the people expect that fantasy to be maintained for them. People who remain calm and think for a few moments see right through most of it, but most of the population does not bother to think and just go on assuming that when their government says "this will keep you safe" it will really keep them safe.
    • Re:Uh No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by greenbird (859670) * on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:53PM (#30584810)

      When you have nothing you have nothing to loose.

      Ummm...especially given where he was from, the crotch bomber had pretty much everything.

  • Nope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:21PM (#30584380) Journal

    Do you think that we can actually make air travel (and any other kind of travel, for that matter) truly secure?"

    Nope. "Truly secure" means defended infinitely well from all risks, which implies infinite cost. The minority of us adults who are mentally adult understand that everything is a cost/benefit tradeoff and nothing justifies the effort to render it "truly secure".

    To be sure, an individual's own life is worth very very much to him, and he is free to spend his money on protection, but that's not the context of this discussion. The context of this discussion is how much wealth should the tribe expend protecting its assets (including its members, none of whom are infinitely valuable).

    • by weicco (645927)

      Let's give every passenger combat shotgun where they enter the plane. Let's also give them permission to shoot everyone they think is a terrorist trying to blow up the plane. That way we'll be all safe in heaven.

      If you get my meaning.

    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:32PM (#30584528) Homepage

      The odds of airborne terror are so low it's ridiculous that we focus on it as much as we do. Here's an excellent post [fivethirtyeight.com] on the subject:

      ----------

      Not going to do any editorializing here; just going to do some non-fancy math. James Joyner asks:

      "There have been precisely three attempts over the last eight years to commit acts of terrorism aboard commercial aircraft. All of them clownishly inept and easily thwarted by the passengers. How many tens of thousands of flights have been incident free?"

      Let's expand Joyner's scope out to the past decade. Over the past decade, there have been, by my count, six attempted terrorist incidents on board a commercial airliner than landed in or departed from the United States: the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11, the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the NWA flight 253 incident on Christmas.

      The Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides a wealth of statistical information on air traffic. For this exercise, I will look at both domestic flights within the US, and international flights whose origin or destination was within the United States. I will not look at flights that transported cargo and crew only. I will look at flights spanning the decade from October 1999 through September 2009 inclusive (the BTS does not yet have data available for the past couple of months).

      Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

      These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 miles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune.

      Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.

      There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

      Again, no editorializing (for now). These are just the numbers.

      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:44PM (#30584686)

        Now look at how many people die every year from other causes.

        If you are in the USofA, you are more likely to be killed by someone in your own family than by a terrorist.

        But that is the problem.

        Because terrorism is so rare, when it happens it is covered in the newspapers, on TV, on the radio, etc. Repeatedly. For weeks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          This is exactly the same problem as kids being much more likely to be molested by good old Uncle Joe than by some stranger who peed in a park 10 years ago. It's a completely irrational fear of some outside boogieman because we are unable to accept that the people we know and trust are capable of such things.

          As Stanley Milgram and Philip Zombardo have demonstrated, yes, there's a very good chance they (and most of the rest of us) are capable of doing horrible things.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Zangief (461457)

        What kind of imbecile metric is "terrorist incidents per mile flown"?!?!

        You may as well make it terrorist incident per atom transported to get a much more impressive number.

  • Is to either remove all people from flights, or somehow put them all into a coma for the duration of the flight.
  • Expert? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iamapizza (1312801)

    Given that he has several books on security, his opinion carries some weight.

    I'm a developer, does that mean I can work in real estate?

    • Given that he has several books on security, his opinion carries some weight.

      I'm a developer, does that mean I can work in real estate?

      As long as it virtual....sure, knock yourself out.

  • by Afforess (1310263) <afforess@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:26PM (#30584448) Journal
    The answer: No.

    The sooner most people grow and learn that "Shit Happens (tm)" and that no one can every prepare for every eventuality, the better. The "Security Theatre" is just a new opening for corrupt politicans and power-hungry individuals to remove more freedom from people.

    Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
    • by Torodung (31985) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:59PM (#30584874) Journal

      Actually, the quote is that anyone who would give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary security. You make it sound as if letting security search your bag when you enter a concert disqualifies one from the rights and privileges of citizenship. As always, the devil is in the details.

      --
      Toro

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:23PM (#30585172)

      The sooner most people grow and learn that "Shit Happens (tm)" and that no one can every prepare for every eventuality, the better. The "Security Theatre" is just a new opening for corrupt politicans and power-hungry individuals to remove more freedom from people.

      That's a defeatist attitude. One problem is we're leaving ourselves helpless -- assuming that the checkpoints will work, creating "sterile zones", and if those methods fail we have nothing to fall back on. Israel, on the other hand, requires that all of its citizens undergo military training -- and curiously enough, being armed in public is commonplace. Carrying knives onto planes is legal. Very few terrorists succeed despite the large numbers of attempts occurring daily, because at any point a citizen has the training to take a terrorist down and knows that they are surrounded by others who also have training and know what to do, look for, and react when a situation occurs.

      Whereas in this country, our sense of helplessness and fear leads people to become terrified of a man with food poisoning puking his guts out in the bathroom during landing -- because of the color of his skin. That's simply pathetic for so many reasons, first of which is that the guy must have been terrified to open the door for fear of being dragged out and beat on by a bunch of people who'd already judged him a threat and could easily kill him for doing nothing worse than eating a burrito that didn't agree with him and that's a shame on us. Secondly, that our rules are so stringent and unyielding that we would make grown people piss or shit their pants, vomit over each other and themselves -- and for what? How can that possibly help security? This is a pathetic state of affairs that wouldn't exist if we as a society felt we could take care of ourselves.

      Our problem isn't in terms of operational security -- our problem is culture. We are constantly told to be docile and passive in the face of lethal threats. How is this a sane response? Anyone who's had even the most minimal combat training will tell you that the right answer 98% of the time is to turn into the attack. I don't care if the guy has fully automatic assault rifle and body armor on the plane -- five people with pocket knives within fifteen feet of him bum-rushing him's going to drop him if they're coordinated. And yes, a couple people will die that is a certainty -- or you can sit there and let the two hundred or so people die. Really, now -- if you had the knife in your hand, which option would you pick? Wait for death, or meet it head on? We all strive to prevent the worst-case scenario, but we shouldn't be paralyzed by fear if we find ourselves in it.

      Terrorism only works because we allow ourselves to be afraid. As politely as I can say this -- stop living in fear. Learn how to defend yourself and then stop putting yourself in high-risk situations. That's advice that works as well for countries as it does for individuals.

      • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:08PM (#30589742)

        That's a defeatist attitude.

        No it's not. A defeatist attitude is that we have to sacrifice what we hold dear in order to gain a blanket of false security.

        Israel, on the other hand, requires that all of its citizens undergo military training -- and curiously enough, being armed in public is commonplace. Carrying knives onto planes is legal.

        Israel is not a poster child of a safe place to live. You can be killed there for having the wrong colour skin or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You also forget that despite all this Israel still suffers regular attacks. Israel developed national service as a response to real attacks, not a proactive defence against imagined dangers.

        Further more, giving everyone guns will make people forget about the terrorist bogeyman, but only because they now have to worry about everyone else around them, only one person has to pop a vein in their head and decide that shooting their way through the Macca's line is a good idea. MAD does not work on a large scale for this reason, it makes everyone as safe as the most unstable individual.

        because at any point a citizen has the training to take a terrorist down

        You're assuming that everyone wants this. You're also assuming that everyone will be capable of doing this. We can't even make sure that everyone on the road can drive safely yet you expect them to become Krav Maga experts, good luck with that.

        You also fail to account for the fact that now many potential terrorist will have the same training or that the current tactics will not evolve. You are making the same mistake as the TSA/Homeland Security, you're preparing to defend against the last attack rather then treating the cause.

        Now your general point is OK but your application is not sound. No, we should not be afraid but we do not have to kill in order to do this, having to kill to ensure your safety is the act of a scared coward. What we forget is that previously, every time a plane was hijacked, it landed and the hijackers sent a list of demands to the authorities (normally for money and/or prisoners), the authorities either acquiesced or stormed the plane, most deaths in hijackings occurred when the police/militaries botched the storming part. Now since 2001, as Bruce Shneier points out, passengers will fight back so most of the worlds terrorist organisations are now sitting back in their palaces/caves/jungle huts saying "fuck, now we cant hijack planes for fun and profit any more", the law of unintended consequences at work. The vast majority of terrorist organisations (HAMAS, FARC, LTTE, Abu Sayaf and so on) are aiming for a very specific goal (normally land/regime change in their home countries) so killing a plane load of good hostages doesnt get them anywhere.

        BTW, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has to be the best named terrorist organisation in the world.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kozz (7764)

      The future of flying is a small plane at a small regional airport.

      Why? Is it because the terrorists will have destroyed the industry? No, it's more likely that the TSA has helped the industry destroy itself.

      Richard Reid (aka the Shoe Bomber) is the reason we all have to take off our bloody shoes when we go through the screening process. I'd love to string up that fucker personally. Of course, his partner was the TSA -- taking off the shoes is just another measure in security theater.

      Now a Nigerian natio

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:53PM (#30585590)

      The sooner most people grow and learn that "Shit Happens (tm)" and that no one can every prepare for every eventuality, the better.

      I agree with this statement generally. However you need to realize that there are a large number of people with buckets of shit who will quite happily rain it upon you when it becomes easy enough to do so. People like to point out the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack is really low - the solution then is not to raise the odds until it's more likely to be killed by terrorism than even X you are comparing odds with,

      This is where I think Bruce misses the mark, he claims there are very few people willing to blow themselves up. Iraq/Afghanistan shows us plainly this is not true. What people are not willing to do, is to enter in a plan they think has little chance of success. You can find a lot of martyrs but not a lot of patsies.

      So the real problem is, what security measures actually have some, vs. no, effect. I would argue a lot of the things prohibited or new rules being put in place (like not being able to tell passengers the name of landmarks out the window!) have as close to zero percent chance of preventing any attack as to make no difference. These rules, should all be abolished or re-thought. All rules need careful risk assessment applied to say, is this really helping or is it just there because one guy did one thing and it was the first thing we thought of to stop that?

      The "Security Theatre" is just a new opening for corrupt politicans and power-hungry individuals to remove more freedom from people.

      Now this I think is unfair, the rules are put in place by committees of people that really are looking to make people safer but with little understanding or concern for the well-being of all the people who are not terrorists, or at least that aspect gets lost in the process. They also show no understanding of how they can leverage or rely on fellow air travelers who are indeed more than happy to help with air security by detaining people as they act.

      "Security Theater" is a term Bruce and others like to throw around a lot to dismiss the efforts to improve security. And yet they ignore the very real value of illusion in warfare throughout the years. As I noted there are a lot of people perfectly willing to blow themselves up, but they are not throwing themselves at plane travel because they THINK they will get caught and not be able to carry out the plan. As we can see from the attack that's not really as true as they think, but large number of people still think it's really hard to work around the system and so they do not try.

      Benjamin Franklin said it best when he said "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

      And here's the term that is most overused of all, and the least well understood. Yes if you give up a little liberty for the gain of a little security you deserve neither. But what about the gain of a LOT of security for a little liberty? When the equation is far more asymmetric is it not also more compelling?

      This is why my thinking that the end game of airport security is this - full body scans, mandatory ID to board planes. But not like todays world of scans - you stand on a platform for 10 seconds with your carryon in hand, and the device scans all of you along with your boarding pass. No human looks at the scan, no human asks you what you have - you just go on your way. Computers (not humans) analyze the image for potential issues, and flag people for more complete screening before you actually board. Then you as a traveler have no delay, but you still basically catch most people trying to bring a bomb of any size aboard a plane, and you still have the current aspect of not as many people willing to even try an attack because they think the magic box will get them. People are against showing ID to board a plane but it's what it's going to have to come down to in the end, because the reality is this

      • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:11PM (#30588294) Homepage

        People are against showing ID to board a plane but it's what it's going to have to come down to in the end, because the reality is this is the most efficient way to actually catch people who are trying to do bad things vs. trying to simply find the tools used to perform an attack carried by any random person.

        That's correct, and that's because that's a real security step (along with things like only allowing checked luggage on if it accompanies someone). It's where you can correlate whether the person is someone who is "likely to be of interest" and where you can verify that the airline is only carrying those who it thinks it is. (Even then, that's not a perfect solution, but a perfect solution would be economically crippling and so won't happen.)

        Note that terrorism by suicide bombers is not the only real threat that has to be defended against. Out-and-out crazies are at least as big a problem, and some measures are there to defend against that too. (Note that the "security theater" is much more effective against that threat.)

      • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:33PM (#30588548)

        We don't have enough terrorist numbers to say that the "Security Theater" is effective or isn't effective. Terrorists have targeted planes for almost 50 years, and the latest security was put in place mostly after 2001. The numbers prior and afterwards aren't much different.

        Personally, I think the term "Security Theater" is perfect. I think effective security (body scans and computer image recognition) fall outside that term, as they might actually be effective.

        I would go further on the ID issue. IDs should be provided via secure sources. Why trust IDs provided by a passenger? A person could be vetted for travel in detail at some security office, and issued a user name or ID number. Providing THAT to security would allow their picture to be viewed and compared to the individual. Doing an ID check once, in detail, by people trained to do so is going to be far more effective then expecting lightly trained individuals to usefully evaluate ID documents over and over every time a person flies.

        This is, if tracking the IDs of individuals is really what we want to do.

        But these kinds of changes are not "Security Theater." These are changes that make a difference in our security.

        Like enabling cell phones on planes. This has been proven to INCREASE security and does not pose any risk to navigation equipment. Yet still, cell phones are not allowed, and planes do not have the technology to enable cell phones in flight.

        Personally, I am tired of not being able to take a jar of homemade Jelly on a plane. Tired of leaving my knife at home. Tired of the waits as thousands if not millions of mistakes are made daily by security staff to no ill effect on our security. (My son has flown with a full sized tube of toothpaste, and my wife with a swiss army knife in their carry on bags, which slipped easily through security. All by accident, but stll).

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jonwil (467024)

          The #1 issue with cellphones is the fact that when you are in an airplane up in the air, your phone is in range of so many towers (and passing between towers so fast) that your phone would overload the network rather than get a stable signal.

          There is talk of micro-cells in airplanes that would allow your phone to connect to them instead of anything on the ground which would overcome the problems.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wyldeone (785673)

        You make this claim, that terrorists don't attack because they are deterred by the idea of security, with no evidence. Here's some very good evidence why your theory is bunk: there are literally millions of highly visible targets in this country with no security. Anybody who wanted to could attack them trivially, compared to the relative difficulty of attacking an airplane. And yet, nobody does. There have been a handful of attempts over the past decade (most of them prompted or at least significantly helpe

        • Bunk is Bunk (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SuperKendall (25149)

          You make this claim, that terrorists don't attack because they are deterred by the idea of security, with no evidence. Here's some very good evidence why your theory is bunk: there are literally millions of highly visible targets in this country with no security.

          But not ones that kill a lot of people. And the guys that really want to do this, we mostly don't let into the U.S.

          The magical thing about air travel is that people anywhere can take a plane. The guys you get that are willing to blow themselves u

  • Yes I do Know (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:26PM (#30584452)

    Terrorism is the smallest of security problems for air craft. The greatest issue is the rapid delivery of diseases from all corners of the world which threatens all of us all of the time. For example a common flu strain will easily kill far more people than we lost on 9/11. Rarer strains could wipe out millions.
                            The simple answer is to allow far less travel even inside our borders. International flights should be extremely limited. That will not only insure better health and safety but will also diminish the availability of air craft to terrorists as well.
                            Nations such as the old USSR that restricted travel were not totally wrong in that policy.

  • What are your thoughts? Do you think that we can actually make air travel (and any other kind of travel, for that matter) truly secure?"

    No. There will never be a time when anything is "truly secure" only more secure. We can make air travel safer and indeed most people have already taken a few of the steps necessary by instinct. 9/11 changed peoples' mindset about hijackings in general and now it is far more dangerous for people who hijack a plane. If the passengers have even a suspicion that anything l

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:28PM (#30584474)

    Terrorists prefer easy targets. This is much less likely if they have to assume the plane (or bus.. or train) might be full of people carrying weapons.

    No.. I'm not an NRA activist or a 'gun wacko'. I don't even own a firearm, but I do know that people used to carry guns on planes and that the stupidity with hijacking actually went up when passengers were required to disarm. I'd like to see terrorists run the risk of being shot dead in order to carry out their idiocy.

    • Mod Up (Score:3, Interesting)

      by XanC (644172)

      Finally the right idea. Why should we gift-wrap defenseless sheep for the bad guys?

      • Re:Mod Up (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:11PM (#30585022) Journal

        I'm actually chair of the National Ninja Warrior's Advocacy Group; packing a gun is silly in most situations, mostly because you don't know how to use it or you don't know how to deal with situations where a gun is useless. For example, if I grab you in the alley, your gun is useless; I'm skilled enough to recognize your attempt at a weapon (assuming it's a knife) and block it (then find out it's a gun you're currently being forced to hold pointed at your foot...). However, if you're highly trained in Judo, my head is probably going into the nearest brick wall for trying.

        A gun is a great self defense weapon. So are your fists. Your fists won't work from 30 feet away, and if you're being shot at you've got a slight problem. I believe we should train everyone to react in hostile situations. Anything, Judo, Boxing, Aikido, Ninjutsu, Kung Fu, it doesn't matter. If you hold a second level rank after 8 months, you're pretty dangerous; if you hold fifth Dan level after 17 years of training, you're carrying around one hell of a concealed weapon. If you're on a plane and some idiot pulls out a box cutter, he now has a plane full of ninjas to deal with; oops.

        We should all learn to be some kind of martial artist, so we have a nation of ninja warriors. Nobody will fuck with anybody ever again. It's infeasible. On one point, everyone can kick your ass; on the other, everyone's reaction to being threatened is now to actively seek a way to destroy you. Maybe I'll stand here nice and quiet while you point a gun at some girl's head; but as soon as you glance behind you, and that thing slides just a bit up, angled away from her skull? I'm there, and your whole arm is gone, and neck snapped right in half. First chance I get.

        This is the most stable form of society possible.

        • Re:Mod Up (Score:5, Funny)

          by Jeng (926980) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:15PM (#30585060)

          Where do I subscribe to your newsletter?

          • Re:Mod Up (Score:5, Funny)

            by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:53PM (#30585584) Journal

            It's boring and wordy and mostly amounts to Basket Case whining about how people are told that self-defense is wrong, or Letters to the Editor that read along the lines of "you are fucking stupid, you think you can take someone with a gun, anyone who has a gun just has to shoot you and you're dead!"

            You'd be better off 1) taking your gun to a firing range and learning to fire it; 2) taking a self-defense-with-guns class to learn how to use it; and 3) taking a close-combat martial art to learn how to deal with situations where your firearm is useless (or you don't have it).

            Or you could just learn to play guitar. By the time someone offs you, you'll just be staring down the barrel thinking, "Eh, I've got blow jobs from like four thousand girls, I had a fun enough ride."

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rale, the (659351)

          For example, if I grab you in the alley, your gun is useless;

          What does this have to do with martial arts? The first step to ensuring your own safety is to be aware of your surroundings. Letting someone get close enough to grab you while you're walking alone through an alley means you already failed at the most basic level of self defense.

        • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @03:09PM (#30585814) Journal

          You have to train a lifetime to become a Ninja, and you have to learn a lot of useless skills like clever ways to poison people. Further, the equipment is expensive and must often be custom forged and relentlessly cared for.

          A Pirate can be trained in a matter of days and requires no more expensive equipment than a pile of shabby rags and a rusty flintlock pistol. What they lack in manners and aim, they make up for in volume and gusto.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khchung (462899)

          We should all learn to be some kind of martial artist, so we have a nation of ninja warriors

          This is so funny that I hope you are joking here. The USofA has trouble keeping most of it's citizen from getting obese due to lack of physical activity, and here you think it is possible to get the whole nation to take effort to go through the training to be ninja worriors?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stewbacca (1033764)

      The odds of getting shot by an armed and sleepy, grumpy, drunk, clumsy, whatever, passenger would be exponentially higher than the current terrorism threat.

      Terrorists aren't the only ones running the risk of being shot dead on a plane if you let average Joe start target shooting in aisle 15.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr. Freeman (933986)
      Carrying guns onto planes can cause a lot of problems if it's not done extremely carefully. For most situations on the ground, say a restaurant, a bunch of armed citizens could easily drop an armed robber and that'd be the end of it. In a plane, you have to worry about decompression (sure, it's no explosive decompression, but it's still something you have to worry about), the very tightly packed people, and the presence of hydraulic and other control lines that can easily be penetrated by a stray bullet.
  • Weighing Opinions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:30PM (#30584510) Journal

    > Given that he has several books on security, his opinion carries some weight.

    One would hope that experts be judged by quality rather than quantity.

    Bruce Schneier has earned street cred in the industry over many years of work. He knows security top-to-bottom, cryptography to psychology to economy.

    Once in a while some media outlets decide to air an actual competent professional instead of a fud-mongering buffoon, and people in the industry send them to Bruce.

  • . . .simply, that as far as the TSA and similar efforts go, the Emperor not only has no clothes, nobody ever remotely NEAR him has a stitch on. About the only people doing airline security right are the Israelis, and their model only works because of the relatively limited scope of El Al's operations. The Christmas Day "panty bombing" showed cascade failures in the intelligence and investigation systems that are the only effective methods of defense against terrorism. In a RATIONAL world, **one** terrorism flag (i.e. one-way ticket, buying with cash, no luggage, watch list, etc) would yield pulling the passenger aside and "enhanced investigation": two flags, and the person is getting a very thorough body and luggage search, and three or more flags, it's grab the latex gloves, because it's a strip-search and fine-tooth comb search through luggage and posessions. But, alas, because some people don't bother checking, or reporting (assuming it's their job to do so. . .) in a timely matter, really obvious cases are allowed to pass, and the aftermath of Enhanced Security Theater does nothing but inconvenience the public, and potentially cause so much noise as to effectively mask any REAL events or dry-runs in progress. . .
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Carnildo (712617)

      In a RATIONAL world, **one** terrorism flag (i.e. one-way ticket, buying with cash, no luggage, watch list, etc) would yield pulling the passenger aside and "enhanced investigation": two flags, and the person is getting a very thorough body and luggage search, and three or more flags, it's grab the latex gloves, because it's a strip-search and fine-tooth comb search through luggage and posessions.

      Earlier this year, I bought a one-way ticket at the last minute with cash while carrying no luggage. Does this

  • Yes, we can probably make air travel completely secure, or very nearly so. The problem is that the level of scrutiny that would require would make air travel too expensive for anyone to afford and so unpleasant that even those rich enough to afford it would be unwilling to undergo it.

    That said, there's room for progress, but odds are we won't see any. We'll just see more nonsensical, ineffective rules and more numerous pissing contests with the semi-literate thugs they hire for airport security.

  • by autocracy (192714) <slashdot2007 AT storyinmemo DOT com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:33PM (#30584536) Homepage

    “I feel better with the heightened security because I feel safe,” said Belisle, who was flying to Washington, D.C., to visit her son in Virginia.

    Source: my local newspaper this morning. We call it security theatre. It's annoying, wasteful, ineffective in our minds. For much of the world, it's a teddy bear that keeps the closet monsters away. People just feel better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That is because people are by and large, completely retarded. I really don't care how much better it makes them feel.
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:35PM (#30584566)
    "When somebody can commit an atrocity and no laws are changed as a result, only then will I agree that we have achieved maturity as a society."
  • by Eadwacer (722852) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:38PM (#30584608)
    Roughly 16,000 people were killed by automobiles in the first six months of this year. Roughly 22,000 were killed by preventable medical errors. If we crashed two or three 747s per week, we still wouldn't be at that level of deaths. If the money we waste on TSA were spent elsewhere, we'd be ahead of the game.
    • Listen up, pal. I don't know who you've been talking to, but the media isn't here to report facts or put news in perspective. We're here to sell ads. If we don't blow everything out of proportion around the clock, what is going to keep you glued to our 24 hour news^W entertainment cycle?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac (43301) *

        No more than the literal truth. TV news doesn't exist to inform the public; it exists to sell YOUR eyeballs to THEIR advertisers. The more eyeballs are glued to the screen, the more their ad-time is worth in the open market. They don't really give a shit WHY your eyeballs are present, so long as they're salable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by petes_PoV (912422)
      And how many were killed by guns in america? At a guess, the same number as road fatalities.
      (if this doesn't get neg'd out of existence I'll be amazed)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) *

        As it happens, you're wrong -- total gun deaths, about 3000/year in the U.S., including crap like gang shootings (which account for around half of 'em, last I heard).

        Contrast that to somewhere around 30,000 auto-related deaths, and 100,000 deaths caused by physicians' errors.

        Clearly, we need to ban doctors!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Apparition-X (617975)
          Actually the number is about 4-5x times that. I am remembering 14,000, but you can find a breakdown on the NRA site (http://www.vpc.org/nrainfo/phil.html): 11,920 firearms homicides in the USA in 2003.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Close to the number people who were killed by people wanting to kill someone that had a gun available as one of their means of doing so?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mspangler (770054)

        First page on a google search;
        in 2004; 29,569 total firearm fatalities, including 16,750 suicides, 649 accidents and 235 with unknown intent.

  • by joeflies (529536) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:48PM (#30584748)
    The Atlantic published an article about Schneier exploiting airport security [theatlantic.com] by pointing out the fundamental flaw that airport scanners don't actually check the no fly list.

    Bruce points out that the no fly list only gets checked when you purchase the ticket, and your ID isn't checked when you actually use it. For example, bad guy steals a credit card and buys a ticket under a fake name. That gets him a valid ticket and avoids the no fly list

    Next, the bad guy takes a boarding pass and modifies it in photoshop to show his real name, and uses that fake boarding pass along with his real id to get through airport screening. Security checks if his id matches the name on the boarding pass, but they never check the computer to see if the name is on the no fly list or even if the boarding pass is valid.

    Finally, the bad guy can rip up the fake boarding pass and use the real boarding pass purchased with the stolen credit card at the gate and gets on the plane. Notice throughout the whole process, nobody checked if the bad guy's id against the no fly list?

    • by khasim (1285)

      If your name is on a no-fly list, you send a different guy who's name is not on the list.

      If you cannot find someone who's name is not on the list, you buy guns and go on a shooting rampage inside the terminal where all the other travelers are standing in line, holding their shoes.

      The terminal closes and all the flights are re-directed to other landing strips. If you pick the terminal right and the day right, you pretty much shut down all travel in that sector.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:08PM (#30584970)

    The USA has declared for several years a "War on Terror". The USA (and many other nations to be fair) is a state that fears visitors bringing their own nail scissors to its shores. The USA is seriously thinking of asking people to keep their hands in view and not visit the toilet 60 minutes before arriving as this is seen as a real threat to its national security.

    These actions don't seem rational to me. The country with a military spend ten times greater than the next largest country, probably with a military the size of most of the rest of the world is scared of individuals approaching its shores bearing nail scissors? These seem to be the action of a terrified, irrational people and nation. Therefore, if the USA (and others) have declared a War on Terror*, then the USA being terrified means the emotion Terror has won. What happens now?

    *I would note that I have a problem with the concept "War on Terror" as I don't see how you can declare a war on a human emotion. Is it possible to have a "War on Joy" for example? Perhaps you could declare a "War on preventing terror in Americans" and find ways of stopping Americans being terrified but I think this would be a tricky task. A lot of people are quite frightened of spiders in their bath tubs after all.

    I think "War on Terror" is short for "War on people who use non-conventional forms of warfare against us that do not declare war on us as a sovereign nation" but I fear that this is difficult to bound in any way so actually means "permanent warfare against any individual or group that we, by our definitions, define as guilty of violent action against us and/or a threat to us at any time in the future". If it is not against another sovereign state, can war be declared, and can it be agreed to be ceased? References really welcomed to any well written definitions on what a "War on Terror" means. I'd really love to find some well argued definitions.

  • by slasho81 (455509) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:29PM (#30585236)
    I ran into Bruce Schneier at an airport once. While we were waiting for a plane, I asked him if he would show me a "cool computer trick". He popped the RAM out of my laptop and quickly tasted the edge with the gold leads. He then told me that at 11:23pm the previous night I had visited ideepthroat.com with Firefox. Damn he's good.
    • by selven (1556643) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @03:35PM (#30586162)

      Bruce Schneier gets the jokes in the Voynich manuscript.
      Bruce Schneier can determine if a program terminates just by looking at it. And then the program terminates itself.
      Bruce Schneier once decrypted a box of AlphaBits.
      Most people use passwords. Some people use passphrases. Bruce Schneier uses an epic passpoem, detailing the life and works of seven mythical Norse heroes.
      Bruce Schneier knows Alice and Bob's shared secret.
      Bruce Schneier can read captchas.
      Bruce Schneier's password has so much entropy, that gzipping it results in a stream sixty four times as long. And yet he can type it with a single roundhouse kick to the keyboard.
      Bruce Schneier knows Chuck Norris's private key.

      • by slasho81 (455509) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @04:02PM (#30586488)
        Bruce Schneier's secure handshake is so strong, you won't be able to exchange keys with anyone else for days.
        Bruce Schneier knows the state of schroedinger's cat.
        Bruce Schneier writes his books and essays by generating random alphanumeric text of an appropriate length and then decrypting it.
        When Bruce Schneier observes a quantum particle, it remains in the same state until he has finished observing it.
        Though a superhero, Bruce Schneier disdanes the use of a mask or secret identity as 'security through obscurity'.
  • by AP31R0N (723649) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:31PM (#30585276)

    Bruce Schneier knows Alice and Bob's shared secret.

    Most people use passwords. Some people use passphrases. Bruce Schneier uses an epic passpoem, detailing the life and works of seven mythical Norse heroes.

    Bruce Schneier's secure handshake is so strong, you won't be able to exchange keys with anyone else for days.

    Bruce Schneier once decrypted a box of AlphaBits.

    Vs lbh nfxrq Oehpr Fpuarvre gb qrpelcg guvf, ur'q pehfu lbhe fxhyy jvgu uvf ynhtu.

    Bruce Schneier writes his books and essays by generating random alphanumeric text of an appropriate length and then decrypting it.

    Bruce Schneier knows the state of schroedinger's cat

    If we built a Dyson sphere around Bruce Schneier and captured all of his energy for 2 months, without any loss, we could power an ideal computer running at 3.2 degrees K to count up to 2^256. This strongly implies that not only can Bruce Schneier brute-force attack 256-bit keys, but that he is built of something other than matter and occupies something other than space.

    When Bruce Schneier observes a quantum particle, it remains in the same state until he has finished observing it.

    Though a superhero, Bruce Schneier disdanes the use of a mask or secret identity as 'security through obscurity'.

  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary,address,for,privacy&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @02:33PM (#30585300)

    Do you think that we can actually make air travel (and any other kind of travel, for that matter) truly secure?

    Isn't it already as secure as anything else?

  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @04:02PM (#30586494) Homepage
    Let's say that we make airline flights 100% terrorist proof. Then what? Simple, the terrorists move on to bombing other things. Can you imaging the panic that would happen if they bombed a large high school graduation? There are a nearly infinite number of potential targets for terrorists and it is impossible to secure them all.
  • by wumingzi (67100) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:18PM (#30588370) Homepage Journal

    was completed by early morning on 11 September 2001.

    Once upon a time, people hijacked airplanes. Airplanes were flown to Cuba, Russia, Taiwan, Mainland China, Africa, wherever people wanted to go for whatever personal or political axes they had to grind.

    After this, the ICAO convened a treaty in 1970 which required that any country that flew airplanes treat hijacking as a felony. No exceptions. In the old days, if an airline pilot flew from (China/Taiwan) to (Taiwan/China), he would get gold, women, his name in the paper, etc. as a propaganda tool to show that (Capitalism/Communism) was a superior form of government which people yearned for. No more. Do that today, you go to prison. Period.

    Even wacky countries we don't like much like Libya, Cuba, North Korea, etc. are signatories to this treaty. Hijack an airplane, go to jail. No exceptions. Anywhere.

    It was a very effective treaty. As a result, a set of "rules of engagement" came up around hijacking. Keep calm. Don't make any sudden moves. Fly the airplane wherever in the world the hijackers want to go. Wherever you land, there will be negotiators if they play nice, and SWAT teams in reserve if they don't. Getting in a fight in the air can only endanger innocent people's lives.

    After 2001, nobody is EVER going to follow those rules of engagement again.

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

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