Researchers Discover Security Problems With TSA Airport Scanners

Researchers recently uncovered a serious problem in the airport security scanners used by the Transit Safety Administration (TSA), Business Week reported.

The scanners used in the study are the Rapiscan Secure 1000. These were retired by the TSA last year after it was criticized by the public due to the naked images of passengers taken by the scanners.

Although these scanner models are no longer used in airports, they are still widely used in U.S. prison facilities and courthouses.  

For their airport application, these machines were used by the agency to scan for and detect contraband items such as drugs, weapons and explosive devices underneath clothes.

According to the researchers, certain materials can be used to prevent objects from being visually detected by the scanners.

For instance, dangerous objects such as knives and guns wrapped in thick layers of plastic or fabric can hinder the items from being clearly identified by the machines.

Through the screens of the scanners, these well-wrapped objects could appear as simply lumps of ambiguous objects.

Aside from physically deceiving the scanners, the software utilized by the machines are dangerously susceptible to attacks from hackers. Researchers explain that hackers can easily manipulate the scanners to change the image of the actual item displayed on the screen.

This means that someone carrying various kinds of weapons could appear unarmed through the scanners with the help of hackers.

Obviously, these flaws in the scanners raise security concerns for airports, airplanes and most importantly, the passengers, according to PC World.

Alex Halderman, the study's co author and a professor at the University of Michigan, said the problem does not lie in the machines. Instead, he blamed government procedures for allowing such issues to exist even after testing protocols, Dumb Out reported.

"What does this say about how these scanners were tested and acquired in the first place," he said. "It says there's something wrong with the government's process. The process is secret and not independent. Those are problems."

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