12/15/2010

Apparently it is easy to fool the new TSA scanners

With all the controversy surrounding these scanners, this was needed.

The Transportation Security Administration's X-ray backscatter scanners have been the center of a widespread controversy, following concerns from privacy advocates that they take nearly naked photos of people. The trade-off is improved security, of course. Yet Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson, two physics professors at the University of California, San Francisco offer a stark conclusion: They can be easily duped, according to a recent paper published in the Journal of Transportation Security.
"It is very likely that a large (15–20 cm in diameter), irregularly-shaped, cm-thick pancake with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, would be invisible to this technology -- ironically because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy," the researchers said in the paper. Kaufman and Carlson conclude that some types of foreign objects can be reliable detected only if they are packed outside the sides of the body, and some well hidden items would be impossible to see even with the scanner.
"It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a box-cutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible," the paper notes. . . .

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