Techdirt Crowdsourcing: How Will The TSA Idiotically Respond To The Laptop Terror Bomb?

from the giving-them-ideas dept

The terrorism arms race marches on, apparently. You may have heard of the recent attack on a passenger plane taking off from Somalia. By all accounts, the attacker managed to get onto the plane with a laptop that contained a bomb, which he detonated during takeoff. The result? The bomber was sucked out of the hole he created in the plane and died, while a couple of other passengers were mildly wounded. The universe, it seems, is not without either a sense of justice or humor.

Still, you absolutely know that this will create a typical shitstorm at the TSA. Security theater stops for nobody, after all, and this latest attempt is sure to put a focus on any computer devices passengers are bringing with them on flights. Laptops and tablets are already screened by the TSA, of course, but somehow this guy got on the plane with his bomb-filled notebook. Even though it happened outside the US (so not directly a TSA failing), it’s not difficult to expect that things are predictably and stupidly going to get more strict on the rest of us. We thought it might be fun to engage in a little crowdsourcing of predictions as to what the TSA reaction will be. In our writing room, your esteemed Techdirt writers came up with some ideas to help you get started:

  • If you have not upgraded to Windows 10, passengers will be forced to do so at the security checkpoint.
  • If you run a machine using Linux, yeah, you’re not getting on the damn plane.
  • The TSA will have a special USB key that it will plug into every computer. It won’t actually detect explosives, but it will download any nude photos you have of yourself on the machine for TSA employees to enjoy. They love that shit, after all.
  • All laptops must be in a vaccuum sealed plastic bag and cannot be opened until the plane has landed.
  • Any laptop over a certain weight will immediately be tossed in the same bin as all of the breast milk, insulin, and contact solution.
  • If your machine contains a copy of Minesweeper, you are shot on sight.

We know our community can do much better than the above, however, so feel free to comment with your own predictions for how the TSA will battle the scourge of laptop explosives that probably don’t actually exist. As a side note, one wonders how useless all of that in-flight WiFi equipment is going to be in the near future.

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Comments on “Techdirt Crowdsourcing: How Will The TSA Idiotically Respond To The Laptop Terror Bomb?”

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radix (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Batteries and all other removable parts (optical drives, RAM, HDD) will have to be removed, transferred to a plane that will fly just behind the passenger jet, then will be returned to the user for a small “security fee” that will cover the cost of the parallel flight (no more than a few hundred dollars each).

They’ll buy a whole fleet of new cargo planes, but when people catch on and stop bringing laptops, opting instead to just buy new ones when they land, the TSA will have to start answering questions about how far this “cord cutting” fad will go. Don’t worry, they’ll say, they didn’t want to transport all those old laptop parts around anyway.

They’ll keep the fleet of cargo planes, though, and get a massive bailout for being too big to fail.

That One Guy (profile) says:

– If your laptop has Minecraft installed, TSA agents will carefully check your maps. If any of them contain anything based upon real-world buildings then it will be treated as evidence of ‘terrorist planning’, and the laptop will be seized and the proper authorities notified. Any maps with TNT crafted and/or stored will result in both laptop and traveler shot on the spot as clear and present threats.

– Any laptop with a black case will be seized as evidence of ill intent on the part of the traveler. Proper professional laptops have silver/gray or white cases.

– TSA agents will carefully check any music playlists on the laptop. Any that contain a song with ‘bomb’, ‘fire’, ‘gun’ or similar words in the title or lyrics will result in seizure of the laptop and detainment of the owner.

– Any laptop with an estimated worth of $1500 or more will be seized. No traveler needs a laptop that valuable, only a would-be-terrorist would carry one in an attempt to disguise a potential weapon.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That would never happen because the RIAA would then have to pay for the service. Instead, the RIAA would demand that the TSA would have to maintain updated MD5 hashes of every torrent file that has, or will ever exist and check every file on every hard drive against that list in such a manner that it does not hold up the line, or miss any ‘contraband’, for free.

Mark Harrill (profile) says:

TSA will check your laptop for downloaded music and send a compiled list to the RIAA for billing.

TSA will check your laptop for downloaded TV shows and movies and send a compiled list to the MPAA for billing.

TSA will check your laptop for downloaded books and send a compiled list to the Big 5 publishers for billing.

TSA will check your laptop for TOR and will send your information to the DEA for inspection. Also, your laptop will be confiscated and sold on Ebay as seized property.

TSA will check your laptop for VPN and encryption software and will send your information to NSA, FBI and CIA. If you are using full disk encryption, you will be detained until you decrypt the drive and they can copy the contents.

TSA will ban taking all electronic devices bigger than their hand onto the airplane. Such items must be checked, for which the airlines will charge a fee to ensure their safe return. Use of the electronics on the airplane at any time will make you subject to arrest, fine and general ridicule.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Practical Solutions

1. Send your fully encrypted laptop via overnight express to wherever your destination is.

2. Keep your data, fully encrypted, in a location reachable from any Internet connection (preferably NOT owned by anyone whom may have a cozy relationship with ANY government), and borrow a laptop at your destination.

3. Travel for pleasure only and go digit-less on your travels (OK that one isn’t always practical).

ThatFatMan (profile) says:

Your wireless mouse is surely a remote detonator, prepare to surrender it.

A wireless mouse without a readily identifiable receiver attached to the laptop will require a full cavity search.

Leftover crumbs from your morning doughnut that managed to find their way into your keyboard are probably leftover explosive residue. Any attempts to use compressed air or shake out the crumbs is a sign you are trying to hide your misdeeds and a tacit admission of guilt. You will be detained and violated, probably including forced X-Rays, MRI’s and enema’s.

Laptops with wireless capability are especially suspect, since we are all master hackers and could easily take over the plane and cause the engine to blow itself up. Or take over the plane and fly into something. This may only apply to first class passengers, since you probably need a bit of elbow room to do your hacking.

TheFlyingFool says:

I have stopped flying because of the fact that the TSA process was getting abusive and highly stressful, and in no way is keeping me safe. Look how badly they score on any real test of stopping weapons and the like.

What this will do is add some layer of inconvenience and stupidity (laptops must be in checked luggage or something) that will make getting on a plane longer, more stressful but at the end of the day will not improve security in one meaningful iota.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh but you see, that’s the best part(for any terrorist), they don’t have to do squat, the government and it’s agencies are more than willing to violate rights and make life hell for the citizens without any prompting at all.

They can just sit back and relax, watching the various governments do more damage to the public than they ever could have.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: More Euro style theatrics

My guess is they will start making everyone boot up their devices to ensure that they work, and are not just PC looking bombs.

How hard would it be to tear out everything from inside a laptop and replace it with a Raspberry Pi that provides some kind of desktop that can be clicked on? It doesn’t need to do much, and that would leave the rest of the space in the case for something that goes boom.

Hold on, someone’s at the door…

DB (profile) says:

Laptops will be sent through security screening with checked luggage. About half the time it is actually inspected, it will be reassembled wrong so that the screen breaks. About 1% of the time it will be returned with a memory SIMM will be missing.

From reports, the bomb was in a laptop-style bag, not specifically a laptop. And the bag bypassed security and was handed to the passenger inside the secure area. It might well be that the ‘terrorist’ had no idea what he was carrying.

Whatever (parody) says:

Article: “but somehow this guy got on the plane with his bomb-filled notebook.”

Whatever: Nowhere in the article does it mention that this wasn’t the TSA’s fault because this was outside the U.S. and so the TSA had nothing to do with it.

Typical response: It does mention it. It says “Even though it happened outside the US (so not directly a TSA failing)”

Whatever: Yes But it glosses over that part as a parenthetical note instead of making it the central point of the article. Had this been in the U.S. you know the article would be criticizing the heck out of the TSA and making it the central point of the article. but because this is not the U.S. you barely mention it.

Typical Response: Wow, there is just no point arguing with you. You obviously didn’t read the article and when you were shown to be wrong you did a poor job backpedaling.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, you’ve realised that you’re full of crap as usual, and rather than wait for the rest of us pointing out the holes in your logic you’re now arguing with yourself for us?

Why not, you know, not post? Even the scenario in your fantasy above is you just whining that the article isn’t written the way you want it to be, even though you still admit there’s nothing factually wrong.

“Had this been in the U.S. you know the article would be criticizing the heck out of the TSA and making it the central point of the article. but because this is not the U.S. you barely mention it”

Yes, a story in the US would criticise the actions taken by the US, but a non-US story makes this inappropriate. I suspect the author is unfamiliar with whatever the Somalian version of the TSA is, so opted to focus their attention on the TSA’s potential reaction (who have been known to overreact to non-attacks where screening took place outside the US before – that’s where the shoe and liquid screening came from after all).

It’s not that you don’t read the articles, it’s that your arguments are nonsensical, illogical and often completely irrelevant, as noted above.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Why are you people so utterly immature and unable to have an adult conversation?

You could have responded by mocking me for missing the (parody) part of the moniker on the comment I responded to (which I just noticed), leaving me feeling suitably embarrassed for responding to it seriously. You could have “won” there.

But, no, you just have to act like a child and swear and name call and act like a bigger fool yourself. Pathetic.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You *could* have responded by mocking me for missing the (parody) part of the moniker on the comment I responded to (which I just noticed), leaving me feeling suitably embarrassed for responding to it seriously.

He could have, but everyone knows you’re just such an excellent poster that you’d get around to doing that yourself anyway, and then they’d look foolish.

Ya just can’t win some times.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Any Laptop Larger than 3oz Not Permitted

I sense a profit opportunity here:

1. TSA decides no laptops allowed through security
2. enterprising people who absolutely do not have their hands in legislators’ pockets will start selling low cost, disposable laptops in the secured zone of the airport

This is what happened with bottled water, just a different price point. You’ve got your data in the cloud anyway, right?

Rich P (profile) says:

Robot assistants

TSA will commission a set of robot scanners to deal with the problem of robot and electronic bombs. These will be in the form of large drop hammers that are specially trained to act on hunches (a.k.a. random number generators) which will instantly pulverise any laptops that have terrorist intentions leaving just the good ones intact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Robot assistants

no need for random number generators.. just have a canine wag their tail whenever they feel like it. (or they smell some bacon or other tasty dog treats).

A US court ruled that a dog’s detection reliability rate of less than 50% is still admissible in court as probable cause for evidence. So, either tossing a coin or just having some slices of bacon will serve as probable cause for releasing the drop hammer.

Zonker says:

TSA will require all passengers to install a backdoor on all electronic devices and give them the Golden Key.

TSA will then take all laptops into the curtained off section to probe the backdoor provided with their dongle.

The laptop will be returned to you with the high capacity battery confiscated as too hazardous to be permitted on the flight.

An airport employee will provide you with a cheap recalled Sony battery after the TSA screening process anyway as a courtesy.

The Sony battery will burst into flames during the flight taking you with it, but only a couple of other passengers will be slightly singed.

Round 2 of even harsher TSA crackdowns will be instituted in response.

Personanongrata says:

Boycott in Defense of Liberty

Stop flying and demand an end to TSA’s petty tyranny at the airport.

If the flying public were to loudly demand an end to TSA and it’s security theater backing their words with a boycott (quixotic?) of US airlines for one week the airlines would stand to collectively lose roughly $240 million dollars on average (based on US airline net income from 2nd qtr 2014 – 2nd qtr 2015 data).

Hitting US airlines where they would hurt most – the bottom line might force them to demand congress defund TSA.

The only purpose for TSA’s poorly trained minions performing their security theater circus tricks is to help condition people into accepting intrusive government/private security check points in their daily lives as being routine.

The paragraph below was excerpted from the online forum Just Security:

Homeland Insecurity: Checkpoints, Warrantless Searches and Security Theater

By Patrick Eddington

Monday, February 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM

The DHS activities I’ve described in this piece share a common theme: each activity involves the use of taxpayer dollars for the conduct of search and seizure operations that are potential violations of the Fourth Amendment. And none of these operations have led to the arrest of a single terrorist nor have they uncovered or disrupted a single terrorist plot. This is “security theater” writ large.

Mike-2 Alpha (profile) says:

As a direct result of this incident, the TSA will issue a directive instructing their screeners to inspect all laptops for signs of explosives. However, being the TSA, they will be unable to find any laptops. Frustrated by this inability, the screeners will instead search your lap for signs of explosives.

Of course, they were planning to do that anyway.

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