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TSA Fails Again With Adjustable Boarding Passes

26th October 2012

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The reputation of possibly America’s least-favorite fondlers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has taken yet another hit with the discovery that its shoddy security allows passengers in its PreCheck system to pick their own security status.

PreCheck allows some frequent fliers willing to pay $100 for a background check to skip some of the onerous security checks, like taking off shoes and unpacking laptops or toiletries. PreCheck customers are still subject to more intensive searches on a randomized basis, however.

Aviation blogger John Butler discovered that the barcode information used for the boarding passes of Precheck fliers wasn’t encoded, and could be read by a simple smartphone app. It contained the flier’s name, flight details, and a number, either a one or a three, with the latter confirming the passenger was cleared for lesser screening.

It would be a relatively simple job to scan the issued boarding pass, decode it, and then change the security setting if you are planning to bring something naughty aboard, or even change the name on the ticket to match a fake ID. After putting the new information into a barcode, and a couple of minutes of cut and paste, the new boarding pass would work as normal, Butler explained.

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