Pornoscanners trivially defeated by pancake-shaped explosives


57 Responses to “Pornoscanners trivially defeated by pancake-shaped explosives”

  1. ultranaut says:

    I look forward to the day when someone smuggles all the necessities for epic-scale pancake production aboard a flight. Fuck hijacking the plane, cook an awesome breakfast!

  2. Zergonapal says:

    Technology is a poor substitute for a good sniffer dog.

    • bombjack says:

      [...]Technology is a poor substitute for a good sniffer dog.[...]

      What if terrorists would take some explosives or drugs (even milligrams are enough) …make a solution out if it, fill it in a aerosol can or something else and use it as spray…e.g. on the luggage of other people…or take the bus/subway or other public transport where people will travel to the airport and do the same thing….

      How will a sniffer dog react, if he thinks every piece of luggage, passenger has his favorite toy hidden?

      And this method will work for the electronic sniffer devices (which are in development), too.

      And even without doing something it happens:


      • AirPillo says:

        Hell, just limit the “attack” to that, causing an endless parade of false alarms that brings everything grinding expensively to a halt.

        If you really want to bend a country’s behavior to your will, make it blatantly obvious that you can wedgie them no matter how many self-defense handbooks they mail order from ads in the back of a magazine.

    • ShastaMcNasty says:

      A sniffer dog *is* technology.

  3. The Life Of Bryan says:

    Here’s a bunny with a kilo of C4 on its head.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As pointed out by many commentators, scanners as a whole defeat their own purpose when they amass several hundred people BEFORE the security check. Now, even terrorists with a fear of flying have an obvious target.

  5. Richard Kirk says:

    I do feel sorry for the engineers developing these scanners. I have worked with X-rays and plastic explosives. I bet any engineer working on scanners like these would have suggested squashing the edges of a sheet of plastic explosive out to form a more natural outline. An even better approach would be to divide into two teams – one hides the stuff and the other has to find it.

    Of course, that assumes If the aim was to catch terrorists and drug smugglers rather than to sell scanners. The technology itself isn’t broken; it’s the administration that needs fixing.

    • EH says:

      You assume that what we’re being told about these things is the same as what they know. They already know myriad weaknesses in the rapescanners, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about regulatory capture. You don’t need a great product to make a lot of money, and if you can piggyback that product onto political hysteria you can make a lot more money.

  6. bradmofo says:

    One thing that bothers me about this entire circus. You know what’s simpler than strapping a PETN pancake to your abdomen, stuffing a bomb up your bum or smuggling liquid explosives on with your baby milk all to make it past the TSA?

    Blowing something else up that’s not an airplane. If I were of the terrorising persuasion I’d say making flying stressful / insanely expensive / inconvenient is a job done, so let’s move on to something else.

    • travtastic says:

      To be fair, I’m not sure these guys would know what sort of over-the-top reaction to have if there were was a real, believable terrorist attack. Fuck, it’s not in the script!

      • Anonymous says:

        To be fair, I’m not sure these guys would know what sort of over-the-top reaction to have if there were was a real, believable terrorist attack.

        Based on previous incidents, they’d chuckle gleefully and rub their hands together while thinking up new ways to exercise their sadistic authoritarianism at taxpayer expense.

        “Joe, somebody just blew up a plane! And get this, he did it by replacing his nuts with plastique! Yeah, really! I swear!”

        “Tim, that’s awesome! We can crush everybody’s ballsacks in a vise before every flight and they’ll pay for the privilege! We can beat them up if they don’t say thank you afterwards!”

        “Muahahaha! Hahahahahah! Hahahahahahahahahaaaaa!”

  7. Anonymous says:

    I buy all my Christmas presents from a TSA luggage screener. Skip the pawn shop middle-man and buy directly from the source!

  8. gadgeteer says:

    Or if you need to get something bigger onto a plane just hop a fence and walk up to the plane and plant it in the wheel well. Someone with all the resources of a 16 year-old runaway was able to do this recently:

  9. Mike the Grouch says:

    Arguing about whether these devices or grope techniques are effective or whatever… is to miss the point. The goal is not now and never was to actually find and stop terrorists. The goal is to appear to be doing something about terrorism and not admitting that those in charge haven’t got a single clue what to do, actually.

    • arborman says:

      Of course those in charge know what to do. But they can’t very well go after the actual states that are funding terrorism – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia – because they are up to their ears in supporting those states.

      They can’t very well stop messing with the lives and societies that were evil enough to exist on top of oil reserves. That is impossible, because that would impact profits for the people in charge.

      So instead they have to make a grand show of doing ‘other’ somethings. Less effective, but more visible. Also, more profitable.

      Doing anything else would just be Unamerican/uncanadian/unbritish. Us not liking it is mostly just us not knowing our place (servile).

      • Mike the Grouch says:

        In other words: they have no idea what to do. BTW, I should think the Saudis know better than antagonize their biggest customers (indeed the government there cooperates with the US and takes an official stance opposing funding terrorism) and the government of Pakistan is being targeted by the terrorists. So while there may be citizens in those places that are complicit in the terrorism, I don’t think it’s state policy. Making it all the more difficult to do anything about it.

    • EH says:

      The goal is to appear to be doing something about terrorism and not admitting that those in charge haven’t got a single clue what to do, actually.

      Well, they do know what can be done to reduce terrorism, but all of this security theater is a political buffer to keep them from having to change foreign policy. The more people are told that those around them are more responsible for terrorist acts than the government, the less people will quibble about it.

  10. Lobster says:

    This is so incredibly reckless. How could he release information like this?

    Now it’s going to be impossible to smuggle pancakes onto the plane! And I already had to make do with so little syrup…

  11. Lagged2Death says:

    The “pornoscaners” cannot detect the contents of bodily cavities, a shortcoming that was well known from the time they were first proposed. Everyone that mattered knew from the start that the scanners couldn’t prevent determined people from smuggling dangerous materials onto planes.

  12. Sapa says:

    “While the breasts are easily recognized at right, without some prior knowledge of the subject…” !! lol

  13. a_user says:

    Am I the only one who read about the teenager who was apparently fell out of the wheel well of a passenger jet as it came into land over the weekend?

    IOW he didn’t bother going through passport control. He wasn’t screened before he boarded. He could have been wearing a martyr’s wife beater stuffed with whatever.

    These machines, and the rest of the airport BS is sold by modern day carpet baggers “Wouldn’t you like to look like you were doing the right thing for buck-passability (TM)”. But look on the bright side, it keeps them off the streets. They would probably be dealing in arms or something else trying to instigate tensions in a flash point like South Korea to sell arms.

    Wait! ohhh they are gooood …….

  14. word2thewyz says:

    New TSA security question: “Is that a rolled-up pancake in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

    • jackie31337 says:

      This makes me want to tape an actual pancake to my abdomen to see if the scanner catches it. AFAIK, taping a pancake to yourself is not a crime, just a somewhat odd way to carry a snack.

      • AnthonyC says:

        I doubt it. Pancakes are made of the same elements, and have about the same density, as human tissue, so if it’s thin enough to not show up as an obvious lump, it wouldn’t look any different than body tissue.

  15. zubed says:

    hahahaha…this is the way we should improve any knowledge, more and more. There is always a leak, so that check and check and check…*_*

  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree with M but also note that Big Brother DOES have a special interest in commercial aircraft few notice and that is that they can and have been used as weapons/bombs against THEM’ (I.E.;Government/political/banking targets).

    “in other words, the pornoscanners are absolutely useless. . . ” if you make the assumption they’re for limiting terrorists rather than limiting freedom and training Americans to submit to authority. For that function they’re working perfectly.

  17. Anonymous says:


    Is anything being done to test the TSA methods in court?
    I would donate a few dollars towards the costs…!!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Apparently it can also miss two TWELVE INCH STEEL RAZOR BLADES..

    As Adam Savage points out from his personal experiences with the scanners in this clip here…

    WTF TSA indeed. –AMG

  19. Punchcard says:

    So porno scanners can be defeated by the same “Beer Belly” technology used by frat boys to smuggle outside booze into football games. Awesome.

  20. pidg says:


  21. werve says:

    Pancake Sniffer @ Lied Animal Shelter Las Vegas:

    Urge Homeland Security Not to Buy Dogs

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it wants to buy 3,000 dogs from breeders in order to increase its force of canines who sniff out explosives, cash, and drugs. With thousands of homeless dogs who would make excellent candidates for the program already in animal shelters across the country, the DHS should follow the lead of New England Assistance Dog Services and many police departments and fill its ranks with dogs adopted from animal shelters and breed rescue groups instead.

    We are in the midst of an animal overpopulation crisis in the U.S., and yet the DHS plans to pay breeders to produce more dogs! Only 20 percent of dogs who are selected for service programs successfully complete the training process, so this plan could actually result in another 15,000 dogs ending up homeless!

    The “success rate” of service dogs adopted from animal shelters and rescue agencies is the same as that of dogs who are bred for certification jobs. Animal shelters everywhere have the type of dogs the DHS is seeking—dogs who are outgoing, alert, active, extremely people-friendly, and of certain breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds.

    If the DHS adopts homeless dogs for the program, it’s a win-win situation. It would save taxpayers thousands of dollars because adoption costs at animal shelters are far lower than the prices that breeders charge for puppies. The average price that the DHS paid for the 322 untrained dogs it purchased between April 2006 and June 2007 was $4,535 per dog! Adopting dogs from animal shelters would also help curb the animal overpopulation crisis, while giving the dogs an opportunity for an exciting and fulfilling life.

    Please take a few moments to contact DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ask that the agency adopt dogs from animal shelters and breed-rescue groups rather than buy dogs from breeders.

    • Anonymous says:

      Adopting mutts, bringing them up from poverty with government redistributed wealth? What were you thinking here? This is America and we prefer our overlords to be of pure breed, born to privilege and superior to all others.

  22. Rob says:

    Great article. I wonder If infrared wouldn’t fix that particular problem anyway. Different heat signatures
    from the explosives or dangerous stuff. I also wonder if the problem with these backscatter machines is the images being viewed in Porno mode… I mean, shouldn’t the view be a bit more sophisticated? An operator doesn’t need to see the entire image, only the parts of interest… Hard edges in unexpected places, reflectivity out of a threshhold. Porno view could be something other than the default.

    Worst attack a terrorist could do right now would be to find the most invasive, privacy defying way possible to plant explosives on themselves, then get caught. I wonder. What’s the worst thing you can imagine the TSA doing, and how hard would it be to actually get them to do it?

    I’ll start… Taking naked pics of your kids then feeling them up.. er… More than they already do?!

  23. DWittSF says:

    On the bright side, the Pornoscanner sales enabled Michael Cherthoff to buy a diamond encrusted coffin to sleep in during the day.

  24. user23 says:

    no surprise really…with a name like “porno scanner” of course Size Matters.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Security theater is just a way to funnel our tax dollars to politicians buddies, so they can in turn pay the politicians with “campaign contributions” and other perks (bribes). It’s a giant money laundering scheme like most of what our government does (bail-outs, subsidies, wars on drugs, terror, the whole anti-piracy fiasco). In This case it is Chertoff and the Chertoff group stealing from us via rapiscan and DHS. Theyre all ‘the worst part’, but the worst part is these scanners cause cancer. I know it’s par for the course for the government to let corporations give us cancer for profit, but at least pollution isn’t as in your face as “hey were gonna scan u with new radiation machines calibrated by the monkeys here at the tsa so Chertoff can keep up the bribes”. Send a message, refuse tge scanner, for your health, and for the health of this country.

  26. arikol says:

    Maybe if the TSA just asks all terrorists nicely to shape their bombs like in Looney Tunes (big sticks of dynamite with a clock on the front) they can show that the scanners work really well. I mean, nobody is going to get through security with that!
    Except maybe the teenager in the wheelwell…

  27. oscar says:

    You guys managed to put up an amusingly inappropriate ad (for a jacket called the “Flight Bomber”) next to this story when I first saw it. Screencapped here:

  28. EH says:

    If the DHS adopts homeless dogs for the program, it’s a win-win situation

    Animal nut is nutty. This is a 110% ignorant idea.

  29. Cowicide says:

    I don’t get all this focus on airlines, can’t people blow up airport terminals or just about anything else filled with people instead of going to all this trouble to blow up an airplane?

    Why don’t we have pornoscannes before you enter any building or any area that has crowds of people? Maybe we should have pornoscanners at every door to every house in America so you can’t leave the house with a bomb?

    Wouldn’t that be safer?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      It would also obviate the need to ask your spouse if those pants make your ass look fat. You could just check your own scan.

  30. bmcraec says:

    I can hear the CNN Headline-Bimbos now:

    “OH, MY GOD, someone needs to deal with that Julian Assange! How could he let this dangerous information out into the wild, where TERRORISTS could find it, and use it to kill INNOCENT AMERICANS even more than they have already?”

    “Uh, it actually came from the *Journal of Transportation Security*, published last week… I have a subscription, actually…Get’s delivered to the lobby.”

    “Oh… In other news—”

  31. tyger11 says:

    Yet another reason waffles are superior to pancakes.

  32. manicbassman says:

    in other words, the pornoscanners are absolutely useless and the terrorists will quite happily traipse through them knowing they will not pick anything up unless they’ve been stupid.

    • M says:

      “in other words, the pornoscanners are absolutely useless. . . ” if you make the assumption they’re for limiting terrorists rather than limiting freedom and training Americans to submit to authority. For that function they’re working perfectly.

    • bmcraec says:

      But all that’s OK, because the the guy who used to be head of Homeland Security, who now owns the company that sold the PornoScannersâ„¢ to the TSA, has got a New, Improved, and Much Better Than Anything Before!™® solution to sell the TSA. They’ll even give a healthy trade-in allowance on the old gear… 10¢ on the dollar, or less… then they’ll sell the old PornoScannersâ„¢ to Slovenia, or somewhere.

      Didn’t ANYONE who voted for these clowns SEE the Wizard of Oz?

      • EH says:

        But all that’s OK, because the the guy who used to be head of Homeland Security, who now owns the company that sold the PornoScannersâ„¢ to the TSA

        Who are you talking about? Not Michael Chertoff, I hope, since he’s (just) a lobbyist and he doesn’t “own the company.” Misinformation hurts your credibility.

        • Anonymous says:

          From Wikipedia:
          “Michael Chertoff has been an advocate of enhanced technologies, such as full body scanners, that reduce security vulnerabilities and enhance detection capabilities for those threats not easily detected by metal detectors. [21] Rapiscan Systems, a manufacturer of this technology, was a client of his security consulting firm, the Chertoff Group in 2009 and services provided were related to aviation security. The Chertoff Group played a massive role in the sale of whole body imaging technology to TSA.”

          That last line leads me to believe he’s more than /just/ a lobbyist.

      • Cowicide says:

        Didn’t ANYONE who voted for these clowns SEE the Wizard of Oz?

        Seeing and understanding are two different things.

  33. 100percentgone says:

    Instead of using a scanner come up with a machine that would detonate and contain the effects of any such detonation. Solve two problems for the price of one.

  34. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Next up, a gun shaped like a moob.

  35. johnnyaction says:

    Like any of this stops terrorists from sneaking a bomb in their bum.

    Or taking apart a big laptop and filling the empty spaces with sheets of plastic explosive.

    Heck you could dissect an ipod classic, gut it, put explosive in it and claim the battery is dead. Or a cell phone.

    That’s if you want to get fancy. Easy way to sneak in bombs and weapons is to just become airline servicing staff.

    If someone is willing to die for their cause it’s tough to stop them. Best you can do is to make sure passengers aren’t passive.

    More people die each year from things like heroin overdoses or prescription mixups and where is the outrage over that?

  36. nixiebunny says:

    These methods don’t render the machine ineffective; it just needs to be used in a better manner.

    Both the thin sideways blade and the pancake-shaped plastic explosive hiding methods can be detected by taking a backscatter exposure of the left and right sides of the person in addition the photos of their front and back.

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