Long TSA Lines Are A Vulnerability

May 16, 2016

We have all seen the recent Facebook posts, tweets, and news articles about the mounting wait times at security lines at major airports across the United States. Some have expressed anger, panic at the thought of delayed travel, laughter at the TSA’s unpreparedness for spring and summer travel, and frustration with a system that appears to be broken. Generally, the system is not broken, it is bent. It is in need of restructuring, staffing and attention because it shuttles millions of passengers around the world on a weekly basis.

As a security professional my head is on a spindle and I pay attention to detail — I suspect most security professionals do as well. I notice who is around me, what they are wearing, what my surroundings look like and where the exits are. I try to take a mental note of the details of the day. I have noticed flaws in the past with airport security (Attackers, Distraction, Deception and Misdirection — http://bit.ly/1Y26Jpz) and have written about them.

The TSA has a bigger problem than long lines at security screening, they have a vulnerability that can cause major problems. The TSA is largely present at airports to deter attacks and make sure that items that could aid in an attack do not make it on an airplane. Its a good effort, it makes people feel comfortable when they are boarding flights, and provides a visible deterrent to attackers. The problem with the long lines is that there is no screening to access the general security and ticketing area. It would be nearly impossible to stop every car and everyone that enters the general queuing area, especially if it is beyond the security line ropes.

How long would it take for a terrorist of some kind to determine the best time to attack queued passengers? There is no cost in watching the lines, the amount of intelligence gathering is minimal and it is the same target that it has always been, the American traveler.

An attack like Belgium, before the security lines could bankrupt the air travel industry and cause severe economic repercussions. Imagine if you will a line that snakes around for several hundred people that also takes upwards of two hours to get through right in the middle of a crowded major airport. How many casualties would it take to bring the air travel industry to a halt?

I believe that there is a rush to staff and train TSA employees to conduct the necessary screenings. I also believe that the professionals at DHS are doing their best to monitor and safeguard travelers that enjoy the American air travel industry. My hope is that a solution comes quickly.

Joseph Pizzo is a veteran of the InfoSec industry with over 20 years of experience and currently serves as Director of Security Solutions of the Securonix Engineering Team. Prior to Securonix, Joseph served as a leader on the Norse Field Engineering Team and Threat Intel SME. Joseph previously worked in varying engineering roles for RSA Security, AccessData, HBGary and Guidance Software. Joseph spent a significant time working with multiple global organizations to assist with their security infrastructure and is a valued and trusted resource for a large portion of Fortune 500 Corporations. Joseph’s education includes Devry and Columbia University.

Joseph is a regular contributor and often sought out for print, web and broadcast media, and has recently contributed to articles for American Banker, CIO Online, TheVerge, SecurityFocus, SC Magazine and SC Magazine UK.

Reach me on Twitter @josephpizzo