Eleven Year Old Kid Shows That Modern Airport Security Is Not As Secure A You Think

from the news-at-eleven dept

We talk a whole lot about the security theater in airports these days. While most of what we write revolves around the TSA and its crazy policies that never seem to do anything to actually protect the people, there is still plenty to talk about in other nations. Take this recent story as an example of how little it takes to bypass modern security using nothing more than a little social engineering.

An eleven year old Manchester boy decided that shopping with his mother was just a little on the boring side and decided to run away. Not content with running away to join the circus, as most little boys are wont to do, he decided that running away on flight to Rome was the better option. Despite not having a passport or a boarding pass, the boy was able to make it through airport security and board the flight. How?
It's then understood Liam ‘tail-gated’ a family with other children even though he had no passport or boarding card tricking security staff into thinking he was part of the group. By the time he passed through the scanner at security, it was 1.15pm.

It is understood Liam headed almost immediately to the first departing flight, the 2pm service to Rome where passengers were already queuing to board the flight.

Airline staff at the gate again appear to have thought he was with a family and failed to check for a passport or a boarding card and allowed him to walk to the plane.
Since the boy was only eleven, he was able to pass for a member of a family traveling through the security checks without any questions. He was then able to pull the same maneuver when boarding the flight. While it might be easier for a kid to pull off something of this nature, it does show that there is still a major weakness in security, something that no amount of post 9/11 security policy can fix.

One of these weaknesses is that we are training our security to look for the wrong things.
Aviation security expert Chris Yates said: “This was a lapse but I don't believe this was a serious security breach. Anybody who passes through Manchester Airport must be screened whether that is through a full body scanner or a metal detector. That did happen in this instance.
You see, the people running security were so caught up in looking for potentially dangerous objects such as liquids over 3 ounces or nail clippers that they completely neglected to check if the people entering the gates or boarding the flights were supposed to be there. Even with this kid being eleven years old, that is a pretty big slip up. One that resulted in a lot of people being suspended while an investigation is under way.

I know what some of you are going to say. "The kid was eleven, how much of a threat could he be?" Sure this kid was eleven. He couldn't have been too much of a threat. However, it shows a major weakness in our security: the human element. Humans are naturally fallible. We make mistakes. As long as there is a human element, no amount of security is foolproof. Even though this kid was eleven, social engineering knows no age boundaries. Even the strongest security systems in the world can fall by a single lapse in judgment by a human being. As we become more and more dependent on machines to scan and screen passengers, we will be opening up larger and larger holes via the human element.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:09am

    False Headline

    I never thought it was secure--only security theater.

     

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      Jason, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 10:06am

      Re: False Headline

      “The boy went through full security screening so the safety of passengers and the aircraft was never compromised.”

      ^^ See, you just have to read the linked article. The safety of passengers...was never compromised.

      Well, except of course for the small child who almost never saw his family again, but who cares about the children. The people who mattered were totally safe.

       

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    Robert (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:17am

    In the news (future)

    "US implements DNA scanning machines at their airports to ensure all persons appearing to be in the same group are related. If less than 7 epithelials match, then the person is singled out for full interrogation. DHS spokesperson says "This is the only way to avoid children running away from their parents. We need to protect the children." TSA spokesperson says "It's important that the public be safe. We all know how destructive child soldiers are."

    And in other news, a former DHS top-ranking member has recently accepted an executive position at the manufacturer of said DNA scanners, NoLiberty4U. Profits for NoLiberty4U have soared, despite several class action lawsuits being filed against the company over privacy concerns. Though a spokesperson for the CIA says those lawsuits should be dropped within the hour, once the field agents check in with completion of their tasks."

     

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      Rikuo (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:38am

      Re: In the news (future)

      Do you know what's really sad about what you just wrote? Before I finished reading your full comment, I thought the first paragraph was true, that the US was implementing DNA scanners at airports. I honestly thought it was true, given the free groping and full body scanners they already do.

       

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:51am

      Re: In the news (future)

      Given the number of children who aren't fathered by who the mother claims is the father I hope they DO do this, it'll be hilarious.

       

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        Tunnen (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:15am

        Re: Re: In the news (future)

        Hey, I think we are onto something... We can start a reality TV show.... Maybe get Jerry Springer or Murray Polvich to host it. Get some before and after interviews from families and catch the reactions on film when the TSA breaks the news to them. We could also get some good action with people getting tased when they go into an emotional outburst in the security checkpoint. They can also throw in a few laughs by making fun of various body scanner images. I think this would fit perfectly into a daytime TV programming slot.

         

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          ltlw0lf (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 11:55am

          Re: Re: Re: In the news (future)

          I think this would fit perfectly into a daytime TV programming slot.

          This will only work if NBC takes it on and uses Matt Lauer for the color commentary. That way he can tell people to Google the celebrities that appear on film or make jingoistic jokes and statements about where the person comes from. Of course, they will have to include a commercial right at the point where the show gets interesting, and then come back from the picture three or four people later without any coverage of the stuff they missed.

           

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      Tunnen (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:53am

      Re: In the news (future)

      Haha, I can only imagine the awkward situation when a family passes through and the TSA agent mentions, "Sir, please step over here. These are not your children. Our records indicate these children are related to a postal worker."

      =P

       

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    John Doe, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:22am

    Stuff can get past the luggage screeners

    I was going to write a more detailed post about how I accidentally took a banned item through security 4 times (two flights out, two back). But then I figured I would get tracked down like the guy who tweeted a threat in England. So all I will say is, a few years back, I thought I had lost said item. I eventually found it wedged into the corner of my carry on bag. It had gone through security 4 times and their x-ray machine never picked it up.

    I sure don't feel safer with all of the security theater. I only feel violated.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 11:30am

      Re: Stuff can get past the luggage screeners

      Don't worry, according to the porn industry you always end up enjoying it. Always.

       

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      Benjo (profile), Aug 27th, 2012 @ 4:16pm

      Re: Stuff can get past the luggage screeners

      I got through SFO all the way on to my plane back to Seattle with somebody else's boarding pass once. When I pointed out that I had someone elses boarding pass they freaked out and treated me like a criminal.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:22am

    Yet, this post comes on the same blog that bitches when security actually checks kids.

    Sheesh.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:34am

      Re:

      Think you're getting your definition of 'checking for passports' mixed with 'molesting children'.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:36am

        Re: Re:

        I would think that a child who has been molested would probably be more likely to run away...maybe on a plane...to Rome.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re:

        I'm picturing the AC at the airport:

        Security: You passport please.
        AC: You are not touching my genitals, you pervert!

        (I'm assuming by his poor display of intellect that he must be a kid)

         

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      Chris Rhodes (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:36am

      Re:

      Hmmm, did you read the whole thing?
      Aviation security expert Chris Yates said: “This was a lapse but I don't believe this was a serious security breach. Anybody who passes through Manchester Airport must be screened whether that is through a full body scanner or a metal detector. That did happen in this instance.
      So he was screened; they just didn't check that he was supposed to be there in the first place.

      Have you seen a post here about how kids shouldn't have to have boarding passes? I can't recall any myself.

       

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      Rikuo (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      No, these are two separate issues. This blog has highlighted issues when the TSA gropes six year olds, in case they were packing weapons in their underwear.
      That's a completely separate issue from a kid passing the security checks but somehow ending up on a plane with no ticket or boarding pass.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      Trash! Touching someones yin yang and calling it a "game", is not the same as just checking someone and being honest about as all government worker should be when dealing with citizens.

       

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:23am

    "Not content with running away to join the circus, as most little boys are want to do..."

    It's "wont", not "want".

     

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    Brent (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:26am

    That little kid is a con-artist/spy in the making. Con-artist if he continues to be successful in his elusive tactics; Spy if a govt agency ever catches up to him. Also, he should co-host a tv show with that 3-year-old gun safe cracker. They could call it "Gubment Safety for Kids" (frequent guest appearances by Barney, or whatever is popular these days, to keep ratings up).

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:59am

    11 year old suicide bombers

    11 years is not too young for terrorists to use. One so young, intellectually impressionable and malleable, would not be out of the question for a suicide bomb attack. It is trivial to sneak material into an airport, so once he was past security, outfitting him with an explosive vest would not be difficult.

     

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      Beta (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:55am

      Re: 11 year old suicide bombers

      I don't know where to start.

      Who's going to carry the explosive vest through security, to give it to the boy after he's gone through security?

      If getting explosives past security is trivial, then what does it matter whether there's an 11-year-old involved?

      If an 11-year-old can work some kind of jedi-mind-trick attack on security, then what prevents terrorists from bringing him to the airport and buying him a ticket?

       

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    Quryous, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Don't kid yourself

    Kids younger than 11 carried very effective AK-47s and grenades in Viet Nam. Quite common in Africa, today.

    Yea, don't kid yourself about being 11.

     

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    Ricky, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:08am

    Don't mind me I am just a kid not a midget with explosives.

     

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    Beta (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:26am

    cost-benefit analysis

    Aviation security expert Chris Yates said: “This was a lapse but I don't believe this was a serious security breach. Anybody who passes through Manchester Airport must be screened whether that is through a full body scanner or a metal detector. That did happen in this instance.

    This makes so much sense that I suspect this man doesn't actually work for airport security.

    Their job was to prevent weapons and explosives from getting onto the plane, and that's what they did. Preventing people from flying without buying tickets is a separate problem, with simpler economics since it has nothing to do with safety. (Let's not get into the idiocy of the No-Fly List.)

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 11:24am

      Re: cost-benefit analysis

      This.

      Being able to get on an airplane without a ticket is not a security issue in the sense of being a risk to the safety of the airplane or passengers.

      Being able to get on an airplane with a gun or a bomb, regardless of whether a person has a ticket, is a severe security issue.

      Part of the problem is that we've conflated law enforcement (finding criminals) with safety (ensuring everyone is unarmed).

       

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        Niall (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 4:35am

        Re: Re: cost-benefit analysis

        Even so, he still managed to make it sound like he was answering the wrong question. Most people don't separate the two - they'll conflate the passport/boarding card check with the physical security. I don't know if this guy was poorly quoted, but he could at least have made it sound like something other than "We bolted the barn door real good!" to the sound of fading horse hooves.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:42am

    This is exactly the same sort of social engineering Helen Hayes' puckish-little-old-lady character used to fly all over the country for free in the movie Airport, which previewed in 1970. She quite literally lays it out in detail in the scene in the airport office where she's being questioned by Burt Lancaster's character. That's 42 years for airport security to get it right.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:47am

    "As we become more and more dependent on machines to scan and screen passengers, we will be opening up larger and larger holes via the human element."

    Are you saying that machines are the problem, or humans are the problem? This statement confuses me.

     

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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 10:07am

    Protocol

    I believe proper protocol would be to never acknowledge that this even or any events like it ever happened. That way security is maintained.

    Security through obscurity is the best!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 1:17pm

    Really? A typo in the title? Cmon use fricken spellcheck.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 1:17pm

    Really? A typo in the title? Cmon use fricken spellcheck.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 2nd, 2012 @ 3:37am

    So we just found a simple way to prevent our kids from boarding flights to run from us. Simply add a pack of marijuana or a bomb in his/her backpack. Problem solved =D

     

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