Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pilots for Pilots

One of the requirements of the 9/11 Bill asked TSA to look at ways to enhance security by identifying airline flight deck crew members (pilots) and giving them a faster way to get through security.

TSA is now piloting a couple of ways to meet this requirement, which will get pilots to their planes a little faster without compromising security.

The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) is currently testing a system called CrewPass at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI), Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) in South Carolina. At these three airports, pilots using specified exit lanes approach the Transportation Security Officer at the podium and present their airline badge. The officer enters the pilot’s badge number into a device. The pilot’s face appears on the screen allowing the officer to ensure that both faces match up.

Concurrently, testing of another system is being done at BWI called Secure Screen. Developed with Southwest Airlines, this program is currently in use for participating Southwest Airline pilots only flying out of BWI. Similar to CrewPass, they arrive at a specified exit lane and approach the officer on duty. They present their pilot’s badge and at the same time enter a “clear key” - similar to a USB drive - into a reader. The reader displays the photo of the pilot and waits for the pilot to place their thumb or finger on the clear key. The system verifies that the biometric thumb print matches the fingerprint being placed on it. This system combines identification verification with a biometric component.


Commercial flight deck crew members are responsible for the safety of hundreds of passengers at any time and are trusted to operate million dollar aircraft on a daily basis. Allowing them to move more efficiently through the security process, while also being able to verify they are who they say they are, fits into our risk-based security approach.

Bob
EoS Blog Team

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Getting pilots through screening faster is a good objective, however without the rest of the crew the airplanes will still be sitting at the gate.

Either all of the crew should be cleared quickly or none of the crew should be cleared quickly. Doing only the pilots accomplishes nothing.

Anonymous said...

Bob, has the posting of comments been halted? Only a couple of favorable comments have been posted in the last several days.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this might just work.

How secure is this system from hackers? If it isn't secure then don't even look at it until it is secure.

Will the information be kept up to date? Again this is is security issue. A pilot who left the system a week ago should have been purged the day he left from that same system.

What is the process for aircrew when the system is down? Again security in a functioning backup system.

Anonymous said...

Did you have a halfway decent mini-vacation, Bob?

I hope the cute little USB stick has a better sensor than the one the TSA rushed to deploy at the TWIC registration sites. It took 30 tries for me to get two 'approximately identical' fingerprint scans.

The 'show a picture of the card holders face from database' flightcrew security feature sounds for like it would work better an any other 'security' feature being pushed out into the ecosystem.

yangj08 said...

I firmly believe that everyone should have the same security process. If pilots get to sign up for a fast-track option, other frequent travelers should have this option also.

Anonymous said...

I see a reference to 50,000 insertion removal cycles for a USB device. Will the station be reliable enough to handle the expected traffic at a busy airport?

Anonymous said...

Please tell me you're kidding. The pilot to be verified carries their own fingerprint reader that has their picture and fingerprint information to the checkpoint?

C'mon guys, you see the problem here, right?

Jim Huggins said...

Yangj08 wrote:

I firmly believe that everyone should have the same security process. If pilots get to sign up for a fast-track option, other frequent travelers should have this option also.

I disagree, slightly. Others here have posted about how silly it is that pilots are prohibited from bringing weapon-like artifacts on board, because they're going to be in command of the biggest potential weapon of all (the aircraft itself). Either we trust the pilots to fly the plane properly (and thus can speed them through the checkpoint), or we don't.

Mr. Gel-pack said...

"Please tell me you're kidding. The pilot to be verified carries their own fingerprint reader that has their picture and fingerprint information to the checkpoint?

C'mon guys, you see the problem here, right?"


Nope, you have to spell it out for them, and they will still ignore it as long as their vendor wants to keep selling them devices.

With this system, someone who hands over a subverted "clear key" can breeze through with full pilot access. Heck if you let them provide their own biometric reader, they could put a gummy skin on it at home.

Maybe it is tougher than photoshopping a boarding pass, but you are still relying on the potential terrorist to give you the access credentials.

Anonymous said...

Hey, everyone is overlooking the biggest vulnerability with this...ghosts. How do you verify ghosts? Please, please tell me TSA has a plan in the pipes to deal with the ghosts. Sheesh...

Anonymous said...

Any word on when the TSA will finally comply with the 9/11 Commission's requirement for 100% screening of all cargo carried on passenger aircraft?

Anonymous said...

For those concerned about the flight crews, I think testing the program on the pilots and if they can work the bugs out of it. then attempted in on the rest of the crew.

Al Ames said...

So, what's being done to get the people PAYING these pilots and TSOs thru security quicker and without hassle? You know, the passengers?

I think what this shows is that ALPA has enough clout to get TSA to pay attention, but they could care less about what the passengers have to deal with.

He who has the gold, makes the rules. He who can supply more gold to those that have it, gets favors.

yangj08 said...

"Either we trust the pilots to fly the plane properly (and thus can speed them through the checkpoint), or we don't."
And why do we trust them? It's because we've done checks on them, isn't it? So why can't the same be applied to travelers on a voluntary basis? Like Clear, but maybe actually secure this time.

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...
Hey, everyone is overlooking the biggest vulnerability with this...ghosts. How do you verify ghosts? Please, please tell me TSA has a plan in the pipes to deal with the ghosts. Sheesh...


I ain't afraid of no ghost.

Bob Eucher said...

Anonymous said:
For those concerned about the flight crews, I think testing the program on the pilots and if they can work the bugs out of it. then attempted in on the rest of the crew.

What I find very disturbing is "testing the program, and working the bugs out".

You mean to tell me they do not know if this works, and that there may be bugs? Is this really the quality security that TSA has always proclaimed to strive for?
Would any of these "bugs" compromise security in any way?
I would feel more confidence in a system if when implemented that it has been perfected and that no testing is required to find the "bugs" in real-time scenario.
If this is NOT 100% foolproof, it is beyond belief that TSA would implement this and put the flying public in danger.
Either the system works and needs no further testing, or it doesn't work, and should not be implemented.
So please tell us, has this system been tested 100% to be reliable and non-vulnerable to compromise, or is just another half-baked effort that does nothing for real security?

Anonymous said...

This is a teriffic idea! I applaud TSA's work on this and look forward to it being implemented nationwide as soon as the process is validated. As far as I know, CrewPass works similar to CASS, right? I won't go into details about CASS here, but I'm very confident that the measures in place make it impossible for someone other than a crewmember to whom valid credentials were issued to get by security by presenting fraudulent documents. With that said, I would not be opposed to pilots having to provide biometric data in order to use the convenience of getting around standard screening, as this would make the program even more secure.

I'm finally excited about something TSA is doing; Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I can understand travelers opinion about why pilots get special treatment and they don't (ooops... forgot to add the sarcasm) I spend more time in airports not flying than most people spend at work during the course of a year. The consumer, I believe, has played a particularly large part of the downfall of this industry (ie. always wanting more for less) and once again complain as if they deserve the same treatment as those within the industry. I say fooey. Each industry has its perks and downsides... grow up and live with it. As far as the TSA is concerned I am still very wary of them as I really don't think that they contribute to safety as most would lead you to believe.

Sandra said...

More of our money being thrown away, in the "quixotic quest for invulnerability."

How many people are going to get rich off of this toy?

Anonymous said...

Bob Eucher said...

hey Bob,
it is being tested, thas why it is a pilot program. If it was already 100% bug free, it would just be implemented. any system like that including all the different parts (computers, id cards/chips/thumbdrives) needs to be tested like this to work out bugs etc.

Ever notice how when a new Windows program is released they patch it? or a new computer game, its gets patched pretty quickl because untill thousands of regular people use it and stumble on problems, the designers have to fix things they didn't think would hapen or plan for.

Jim Huggins said...

Bob Eucher writes:

If this is NOT 100% foolproof, it is beyond belief that TSA would implement this and put the flying public in danger. Either the system works and needs no further testing, or it doesn't work, and should not be implemented.

Security doesn't work that way. No system is ever 100% secure; it's all about degrees of security, and cost tradeoffs. Is the cost of breaking a system worse than other alternate attacks? Is the cost of creating a system worse than the cost of dealing with the aftermath of a breach? And so on.

I'm sure the system was tested. But being in the computing business, I can say that no program (except for exceedingly trivial ones) is ever tested for 100% foolproof-ness.

Stephen said...

> Allowing them to move more efficiently
> through the security process, while
> also being able to verify they are who
> they say they are, fits into our
> risk-based security approach.

That is, of course, the approach of dreaming up fantastical movie-plot "risks" and then developing very expensive specific security measures to thwart the plots that you dreamed up?

I mean this would be great, if there was any need for all the screening in the first place.

Or maybe you could just... give them ID badges that let them walk right through without screening?

That system works pretty damned well. Its worked well for years....

When was the last time this was a problem? Oh thats right, it wasn't.

but surely its been an issue a statistically signifigant number of times? Oh wait, no. Hasn't.

If you want to increase security, consider systems for detecting if the pilot is in good physical and mental state to fly. You will actually make people safer.... possibly for the first time.

-Steve

msimons said...

Agree with previously posted, the pilot should NOT be the one with their image on a USB reader. This should be in a central database TSA maintains, along with the fingerprints.
The fingerprint reader should be fixed to maintain reliability.
To see something this FLAWED even getting to a tested phase illustrates doubts on peer reviews.
Waste of our tax money.

Anonymous said...

yangj08 said...
"Either we trust the pilots to fly the plane properly (and thus can speed them through the checkpoint), or we don't."
And why do we trust them? It's because we've done checks on them, isn't it? So why can't the same be applied to travelers on a voluntary basis? Like Clear, but maybe actually secure this time.


passengers arnt in control of the plane. pilots are. if a pilot wanted to take the aircraft down they will. they might as well make it easier for them to get through security, since they controll the destiny of the flight anyways.

TSO Tom said...

Pilots make their way through the checkpoint every day. Either they are FFDO certified and come to the exit with their credentials and badge, or they are screened at the checkpoint like everyone else. Why not just have a lane specifically for flight crew? This would expedite the ENTIRE crew through security without compromising the process and without having to spend perhaps millions of additional taxpayer dollars to "verify" them. Come on Bob, it sounds good in theory, but in all practicality, its a bad idea.

Brian said...

Already been mentioned before, but what the hell...

Regarding the use of a USB thumbprint reader, there are 2 flaws in the design:

1) If the USB fob carries the biometric information within it, it can be subverted. Even if it doesn't carry the actual information, it could be subverted to tell the system to treat every input as a match.

2) If the fob merely serves as a conduit that allows the pilot's thumbprint to be read, there is no reason that a separate fob is needed - just incorporate a thumbprint reader into the station and you eliminate the need for a separate piece of equipment that could be lost or destroyed.

2a) What happens in a situation where the fob is damaged, either accidentally or intentionally, and it cannot be used? Does the system grind to halt, or will there be a backup process in place?

yangj08 said...

"passengers arnt in control of the plane. pilots are. if a pilot wanted to take the aircraft down they will. they might as well make it easier for them to get through security, since they controll the destiny of the flight anyways."

My point was that *passengers* should be able to get the same "freedom" to bypass regular security as pilots. Why not? If you can move some frequent travelers to the "crew lane" then that's more freed up for the regular lane (which is a good thing if you've been through the same airports I have- once upon a time I waited half an hour to get through a security line).

Robert Johnson said...

So TSA, got a question here.

Is this how you guys can recongizne marijuana when a passenger brings it through?

Deputies find pot plant tied with DHS logo tape
"Deputies securing a clandestine field of marijuana Tuesday found plants tied to stakes by tape bearing the Department of Homeland Security logo and the words "inspected."

The tape has "Transportation Security Administration" written in bold letters, the Corsicana Daily Sun reported for its Tuesday editions. It looks like the kind used by TSA to mark bags and freight that have been inspected, said Navarro County Sheriff Les Cotten. But it wasn't immediately clear if the tape was authentic or how it ended up in the field."


Care to explain why we should trust you guys on security?

Robert

Tomas said...

I personally don't have a problem with aircrew having a quicker way to get aboard their aircraft, so long at it is as secure or more secure than the "best practices" security anyone else is put through.

If that requires highly difficult to compromise biometric validations against a centrally kept record (NOT one carried by the person) all the better.

As a paying customer, maybe I could be offered the same "most secure" biometric coded "pass" through the system - maybe they could even use the biometrics that have been associated with my military security clearance for over 40 years (yeah, I still have the same fingerprints).

In any case, I like that TSA is exploring ways of speeding secure passage through the government checkpoints, starting with the pilots, and hope that they don't just go the easy way of letting each person carry their own confirming file (too easy to compromise), AND once "proved in" move to get travelers into the same biometric validation scheme in order to speed passage through the chokepoints.

Tom (1 of 5-6)

ThePlaz said...

Why do the pilots carry around their own fingerprint readers. It seems to me that the such a reader would be easier to subvert, more expensive, and less durable than a permanently wired reader at the security lane.

I do however think that having the pilots carry some sort of token for authentication is another layer of security. Have you seen the YubiKey? It's similar to what you have proposed in that it connects via USB sends out a secure, encrypted code when triggered.

Lastly, any reason this can not be rolled out to not just the entire crew, but everyone who works in the secure area of the airport.

Anonymous said...

It's plans like this that make me think that the TSA is a Maginot Line drawn in the sky.

Trollkiller said...

If stupidity were a headache the TSA would be a migraine.

Either weapons, explosives and incendiaries are dangerous to aircraft safety or they are not.

This lie that TSOs and pilots are vetted and therefore are more trustworthy than a passenger is despicable politics and nothing more.

Past behavior is NOT an accurate indication of future behavior. This is evidenced by TSOs being convicted for smuggling drugs, pilots getting arrested for attacking a cabbie, TSO getting arrested for molesting a four year old and so on and so forth.

Does this mean that all TSOs and pilots are bad, of course not but it does mean that ALL TSOs and ALL pilots are suspect. Please note this follows the same logic that because one passenger was bad ALL are suspect.

The TSA says that pilots do not be screened for weapons, explosives and incendiaries because they control the aircraft and can crash it at will. The TSA conveniently forgets that a commercial airplane is NOT a Greyhound bus. There are two sets of controls and at least two people qualified to pilot that plane in the cockpit.

How much easier is it to take sole control of that aircraft if you can shoot the other pilot in the head because the TSA did not screen for weapons?

The TSA says they are meeting a congressional mandate to speed crew members through security, except this no screen policy applies ONLY to pilots. The aircraft can't leave until ALL crew members are on board, but the flight attendants are stuck being screened for weapons, explosives and incendiaries by the TSA.

Epic Logic Fail.

The truth is this a response to the pilot's UNION need to stroke the over inflated ego of pilots. Because pilot's unions have lobbyists and make political donations, the Congress being the stalwart defender of public good pushes for this exemption in logic.

When the TSA did a "me too' and decided to allow TSOs to report to work without the screening that caught the Denver TSO bringing a gun to work, Congress members said "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Kippie you have some 'splaining to do." demanding an explanation in writing due October 9th. Proving that Congress has not completely lost their collective minds but only has a severe case of dementia.

I have more to say but I must go to work so y'all chew on that for a bit.

p.s. Blogger Bob the "system" link on your post is broken. It points to http://system/

Anonymous said...

This helps nobody if you don't have a crew of flight attendant's.

Per F.A.R 121.391, Every flight must have a certain number of flight attendants. If that number is less than the required amount, that plane can not be boarded and goes ... NO WHERE!

Plane and simple. So, to speed just the pilots through a TSA check point does nothing but get them to an aircraft that cant go anywhere.

Anonymous said...

As a pilot myself. We need to implement these checkpoints system wide. The fact of the matter is a pilot goes through a security checkpoint more than anyone else, including business travelers. Every time we are subject to taking our shoes off, random bag checks and waiting in long lines just to do our job. If you had to wait at in a 5 minute line to walk into your place of business, would it get on your nerves? The fact of the matter is that WE FLY THE AIRPLANE. You safety is in our hands and we take that very, very seriously. We just don't see the justification in thousands of security screenings a year when our hands are at the very controls of the airplane itself. TSA's job is to protect the aircraft, and they do a good job of it. Our job is to fly the aircraft, there is no need for the two to get involved with one another. Make our lives easier and give us a quicker option. Thank you.

Jim Huggins said...

While I'm completely in favor of this policy, I can't resist responding to this ...

An anonymous pilot writes:

If you had to wait at in a 5 minute line to walk into your place of business, would it get on your nerves?

Excuse me? Most people who are flying are doing so for business purposes. So, when I'm standing in line in the checkpoint, I am standing in line in order to walk into my place of business ... or, more accurately, get closer to my place of business.

Anonymous said...

"As a pilot myself. We need to implement these checkpoints system wide. The fact of the matter is a pilot goes through a security checkpoint more than anyone else, including business travelers. Every time we are subject to taking our shoes off, random bag checks and waiting in long lines just to do our job. If you had to wait at in a 5 minute line to walk into your place of business, would it get on your nerves? The fact of the matter is that WE FLY THE AIRPLANE."

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
I agree that pilots and flight crews should have a different screening method.

The fact of the matter is that you pilots have the ability to bring immediate attention to this problem but do not have the backbone to take the steps to do so.

One or two (or longer if needed)days of no airplanes leaving the ground would draw attention to this matter.

So as a group do what has to be done.

Bob said...

Happy Tuesday! After the long weekend I have a bunch of blog comments to moderate. I’m going to get cracking in a few minutes.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

italy said...

This will help decrease the chance of hackers from abusing your security? ...i don't think so.

Emily said...

I am a former screener (2002-2003 baggage ORF) and the wife of a man who flies 2 to 4 times a month.

I've always thought the TSA should develop an "Easy Pass" lane similar to toll lanes.

Pilots, crew and passengers who fly X amount of hours go register in "the database." Use of a digital fingerprint scanner and facial recognition software which is proven technology could speed up the process greatly. The system would have to have all the hacker proof stuff available to prevent someone from inserting their image, etc, but I think it is a viable concept. Walk up - scan finger - let the computer do the math on your face and go.

My husband has a Top Secret clearance due to his job and gets singled out for full opens a lot because he has to head out somewhere with very little notice. He knows the drill, has his stuff streamlined to get through quick - but it is still kind of silly.

Anonymous said...

I really pray that they are kidding with that software interface.... Are my eyes decieving me when i see an actual stoplight with all three colors red, yellow, and green!? thats really embarassing. why do they have to dumb it down so much!? and what happens if the pilot gets a yellow light?? does he have to "proceed with caution"?

Anything said...

Ummm, correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the 911 planes flown by...PILOTS!? We're back to "square one" if PILOTS get to skip supposedly important security checks! This fact only emphasises how "unsecure" our airports really are. PS: AMTRAK has really become the public mode of transportation for us. With security delays, passport checks and general flight delays. It's only a little longer by train. And you get to walk around, eat in the dining car, see the sights and...here's a novel idea...actually relax while traveling!