HOWTO get metal through a TSA full-body scanner


33 Responses to “HOWTO get metal through a TSA full-body scanner”

  1. sebulba says:

    At first I was like: “Boing Boing is writing about a heavy metal/hard rock band called TSA”.
    Dyslexia… I’m a moron

  2. Guest says:

    I did opt out of this scanner not long ago and got a free government massage and I enjoyed that since that felt good. Reading about how taxpayers have been bilked out of money for this faulty device does not make me feel very good though.

  3. cbwallday says:

    I totally get not trusting the government, and I’m in agreement with the criticisms of the TSA’s failures, but does he really advocate privatizing airport security (~4:10) as part of the solution?

    If you think it’s bad now, just wait until Wackenhut gets their tentacles wrapped around it!

    • Ted Lemon says:

      Airport security used to be run privately, and still is in some airports.   The push to turn it into a new government fiefdom came after the security  failures of 9/11, despite the fact that the real failure of 9/11 was in our ability to imagine what the hijackers did, a failure which has since been quite thoroughly corrected.

      It is unfortunate that the TSA managed to _lower_ security standards, increase costs and turn flying into an exercise in compliance.   But the problem is one of methodology, not ownership; privatizing the TSA without changing the methodology will do nothing to help matters.   Indeed, you could argue that the pornoscanners are in fact an attempt to privatize some aspect of security.   As usual, to the great profit of the government contractor, and the impoverishment of the national treasury.

  4. Can’t they just add a metal detector to the process?

  5. Rick Westerman says:

    It will be interesting to see if independent confirmation of his experiment can be accomplished.  Unfortunately he has a vendetta against the TSA which makes any statements/experiments done by him suspect.  Grainy bouncing video does not count for much!  On the other hand it is only with motivated people that change gets accomplished. 

    • hostile_17 says:

      Yeah, watching it he sounds like a hysterical, hyperbolic cook. But then… is what he’s saying correct? I guess that’s the question. 

      The scanner I went through I thought highlighted areas like a sort of ‘zone’, so it wouldn’t require visual identification.

  6. MrEricSir says:

    So the scanners can find your weapons — unless you hide them in your pocket.  Yeah, that’s some amazing security there.

    • HenryPootel says:

      Not that simple MrEricSir – a human may not be able to see if it’s the right density to blend into the background, and the user has hung it off to the side of loose clothing so it’s not between the camera and the body.   And as pointed out below by iHominid, just take two shots (side and front) and you’ll find it.  Unless like you stash it inside a massive ‘fro.

    • Lemoutan says:

       Were one of a devious turn of mind, it’s almost as if these machines had been deliberately designed to allow ‘approved persons’ through – instructed in how to hide their materièl – and that all Corbett has done is blow the gaff.

  7. iHominid says:

    Great – another “Squirrel!”.  In ~4 months when I next fly I’ll have to turn 90 degrees and let them unconstitutionally scan me a second time from a different angle as TSA Security Theater reacts to PR, and this is going viral soon.  Thanks, Jon & BoingBoing.  

    Sarcasm aside, I wonder if this info & the original post should have followed software vulnerability processes where ‘authors’ are notified & given a chance to respond before publication…not that I trust the TSA to react well to such, and I’d bet money it would result in an FBI visit to Jon, if it has not already. Edit: Spelling & TSAOutOfOurPants blog says it was delivered ahead of time – I’d love to read about that experience in addition to watching the video…

    • Itsumishi says:

      Exactly what I had in mind before even watching the video. The only step required to take care of this problem with the scanners is make people walk through them a second time. 

      Of course this isn’t a good thing. There are already loads of questions about whether these should be used at all, let alone twice every time you need to fly. Also the queues. Soon enough airports will require at least 3 hours before even a domestic flight at the rates of extra security being added.. 

      Good-bye time advantage for shorter trips!

  8. HenryPootel says:

    Technically his approach makes a ton of sense – put things you don’t want detected away from your body so they show up over the background (and hopefully blend into it).  Kind of like putting a white piece of paper down on a copy machine and making a copy of it – it hardly shows up, and only someone paying attention can figure out it’s there.

  9. Outland10 says:

    $1B–Can we American taxpayers ask for a refund from Rapiscan/L3 and Friends of Chertoff?

  10. ultragreen says:

    And so the only thing that shows up as white in these scanners is the human body. I wonder, why is that? Apparently some of the electromagnetic radiation or particles are reflected back because of the density of human flesh (consisting mostly of water). Also, the human skeleton is not revealed by these machines.

    Therefore, a weapon that is surrounded by a container (made of leather, water-proof cloth, or plastic) with a thin layer of water should also appear the same color as the human body and it would be less visible to the scanner, especially if the container was molded to fit the contour of the human body. This would apply to the millimeter wave machines that are in use, although it probably doesn’t generalize to the scanners that emit low-energy x-rays.

    With low-energy x-rays, the situation is more complicated as some of the radiation passes through the human body and some of it is reflected back to the scanner. Thus, a weapon made of high density material, such as metal, would probably still show up on the scanner, even if it was swallowed. To elude detection from an x-ray backscatter machine, the weapon would have to be made from lighter elements, including such materials as a carbon composite, plastic, glass, or bone.

    • Stewart Smith says:

      It’s not alpha radiation, where did you hear that? It’s millimetre wave or some kind of x-ray.

    • Lemoutan says:

      You mean to say that yokel class, with their pigs and chickens and small milking cows, could pass through the scanners on their haywains with impunity? All they have to do is get their pig to swallow the weapons?

      Never did trust those there peasants.

      • ultragreen says:

        For the millimeter wave machines that are in use, weapons that are swallowed by pigs could not be detected. Therefore, the yokel class could arrive inside the plane fully armed.

        For the machines that use x-rays, the swallowed weapons would have to be made of a less dense material than metal, otherwise they could probably be detected.

        So which airlines allow peasants to enter the plane with their farm animals? I want to be certain to avoid them.

  11. Maarten Tromp says:

    The video ignores that the scanners do not just generate front and rear, but also side view images. The metal case should show up on those shots. Otherwise, the machines’ software would need to have very fancy computer vision algorithms to remove objects from the scan that occlude the person behind it. Very unlikely. It is both complicated and counter productive.

    I don’t like the scanners, but I’m very sceptical of the video. If the story about the smuggled metal case is real, then are more plausible explanations for the failed detection, such as the scanners attendant not paying attention.

  12. Keri says:

    Where was the outrage against TSA before they started grabbing middle class white nerd types by the cojones? 

  13. realityhater says:

    I have no love for the TSA period  , however was it really wise to post this type of Achilles heel to a public blog ?  Willing to bet in the next few days we see at least 10 copycats arrested trying to pass /fake the TSA’s  radiation machines……….I have said in the past that there is no real security until all cargo goes through a secure scan of some sort , however this revelation is very disturbing on a multitude of levels.

    • scav says:

      Concern trolling? Really?

      Yes, it was wise to expose the ineffectiveness of a purported security measure that has cost  millions of dollars and invades the privacy of travellers to an extent that many are uncomfortable with. Otherwise it would still be possible for the TSA to claim that the expense and indignity are justifiable.

      It would be ridiculous to pretend that keeping quiet about it could do any good whatsoever. It is ALWAYS a good idea to make criticism of government as honest, factual, public and open as possible. Free speech: use it or lose it.

  14. Aloisius says:

    Why is he wearing headphones?

    • Adam Van Hal says:

      some, like me, like to monitor their voice on the mic feed. it provides better feedback to ensure only one take

  15. as much as i  have no desire to see the pronoscanners for 1 more minute in the airport, wouldn’t a 360 degree scan discover this type of concealment? presumably the next iteration of the pronscanner will have a turntable attachment. thus adding an extra 5 minutes to every scan.

  16. Slant says:

    This is a beautiful video.  Exactly what the internet should be used for.

  17. AA says:

    Well, what if they add another check where they also get a view of the negative image?

    And by the way, wouldn’t it be reasonable to be asking for studies to be set-up to investigate any related problems that could arise to the frequent flyers by the use of these scanners?

  18. Amelia_G says:

    Recently I saw a guy successfully take a large metal water bottle through a TSA security check.

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