This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
A team of university researchers said, in lab tests, they were able to hide firearms and other contraband from full-body, backscatter X-ray machines that were used at U.S. airports between 2009 and 2013.This according to a report in Fierce Homeland Security.
The researchers said they successfully concealed firearms and plastic explosive simulants from a Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanner, which has since been removed from airports due to privacy concerns, according to a press release from the University of California, San Diego.
UCSD conducted the tests along with researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
Researchers were also able to modify the scanner’s operating software, resulting in an “all-clear” image to the operator even when hidden devices or contraband was detected,
“Frankly, we were shocked by what we found,” J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan computer science professor, said in the release. “A clever attacker can smuggle contraband past the machines using surprisingly low-tech techniques.”
Researchers said they shared their findings with the Homeland Security Department and Rapiscan, which made the scanners, in May.
In an emailed statement, TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said the technology that TSA acquires “goes through a rigorous testing and evaluation process, along with certification and accreditation.”
In 2013, the TSA removed about 250 of these scanners following a public outcry that the machines invaded people’s privacy because they displayed nude images of travelers. However, the machines were repurposed at jails, courthouses and other government facilities, said researchers, who added that changes should be made to screening procedures to reduce scanners’ blind spots.
The research team bought a government-surplus machine on eBay for its tests.