Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TSA X-Ray Machines Easily Fooled, Researchers Find

From Fox News:
Any would-be terrorist can easily outsmart the ubiquitous backscatter scanners found in major airports around the world, two scientists say...

Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson, two physics professors at the University of California, San Francisco offer a stark conclusion: [The TSA's X-ray backscatter scanners] 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... [Ed. Note: The researchers note that "forty grams of PETN, a purportedly dangerous amount, would fit in a 1.25 mm-thick pancake... and be virtually invisible." A 100 grams of PETN is enough to blow up a car.]

"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.

Experts have already highlighted that such machines are unable to detect hidden plastic explosives. The authors of the new paper expand on these limitations -- and it couldn’t come at a worse time, as families prepare for holiday travel plans...
According to the aforementioned report, "Normal anatomy would make a dangerous amount of plastic explosive with tapered edges difficult if not impossible to detect."

Related Video: Naked airport scanner catches cellphone, misses bomb components

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