Tuesday, July 8, 2014

TSA Travel Tips: Enhanced Security Measures for Electronic Devices at Certain Airports Overseas



This week’s travel tip is for passengers traveling out of overseas airports. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recently directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.

Electronic devices are already screened daily, but now, security officers might ask that you power up your devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft, so it’s important to have them charged prior to going through security.

See you next week with more travel tips.

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Bob Burns  

TSA Blog Team 

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55 comments:

Jason Berry said...

Does the device need to simply turn on or does it need to boot up all the way? For instance, when my iPad gets very low on battery (which happens frequently when traveling), it powers on immediately but only flashes a "low battery" message and icon. It doesn't boot all the way. Would this pass inspection?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How will non-battery operated electronics be dealt with? For example, As you are requiring items to be powered up, I assume that you will make a mains socket available for use.

Karl Palachuk said...

Why are powerless devices not allowed? What's the concern there?

I remember 20 years ago when almost no one had a laptop, I had to power up the laptop to prove it worked.

What's the deal? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If I am a Trusted Traveler, why can't I fly with a powered-down electronic device?

Anonymous said...

Millions of dollars spent on scanning equipment and now re revert to powering up a unit to make sure it's real!

Anonymous said...

Curious if there's any science behind this, at all, or if it's just one of those "got to keep the proles scared" things.

(I'm guessing it's the latter)

Anonymous said...

One option you should have for the travelers is to be able to charge the device on the spot and show it. I carry multiple phones as backups and don't remember to charge them all the time!

Another inconvenience for frequent travelers!

SB said...

I am very concerned that I will no longer be able to travel with my external hard drive that I use for backing up photos and videos while traveling. Go to http://gearpatrol.com/2013/03/14/die-hard-drives-5-best-rugged-drives/ to get a sense of what such a device looks like. It's bigger than a phone, and has no screen. At most it has an LED light to show it's on.

Will the light going on be sufficient?

And if so, doesn't that point out the lunacy of this policy, that a light which requires nearly no power to turn on is sufficient evidence that a large electronic device is indeed what the traveler purports it to be and that it hasn't been tampered with?

SB said...

To follow up on the question about portable hard drives, most don't even have their own power source, and instead use a computer's power. So will I be required to show that the hard drive can mount on laptop?

Susan Richart said...

What happens when someone powers on a device and the checkpoint line disappears in a flash?

It's summertime, folk, and DHS/TSA has to come up with some way to keep the populace frightened and compliant.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Anonymous said...

Does this extend beyond computers, phones, & tablets?

What about electric toothbrushes, shavers, and other battery operated devices?

There are some things that shouldn't come out of the carry on in public.

RB said...

Anonymous said...Curious if there's any science behind this, at all, or if it's just one of those "got to keep the proles scared" things.(I'm guessing it's the latter)July 8, 2014 at 10:00 PM
------------------------------------
Science? We're TSA, we don't need science!

Anonymous said...

I question the effectiveness of this policy. Shouldn't you be able to see if something isn't right with these electronics with the x-ray machine?

Even if you can't see if something is wrong, wouldn't the terrorists just make it so the device could power on normally? If not, wouldn't they just make it so the power button is the detonator? In that case, a densely packed checkpoint would be destroyed instead of a plane.

What happens to the electronics that can't be powered up? Will a passenger be allowed to leave the checkpoint to ship or check the device? Will a passenger be allowed to plug it in at the checkpoint to try to turn it on? Will it just be tossed in the garbage along with all of the other dangerous liquids?

Anonymous said...

"Curious if there's any science behind this, at all"

If it's TSA, there's no science. These are the same folks who are still lying about "explosive liquids" eight years after overseas law enforcement broke up a pirely aspirational plot by a bunch of losers who didn't even have airplane tickets. Right, Curtis Burns and West Cooper?

/screenshot

James Calasso said...

SB said...
I am very concerned that I will no longer be able to travel with my external hard drive that I use for backing up photos and videos while traveling. Go to http://gearpatrol.com/2013/03/14/die-hard-drives-5-best-rugged-drives/ to get a sense of what such a device looks like. It's bigger than a phone, and has no screen. At most it has an LED light to show it's on.

Will the light going on be sufficient?

And if so, doesn't that point out the lunacy of this policy, that a light which requires nearly no power to turn on is sufficient evidence that a large electronic device is indeed what the traveler purports it to be and that it hasn't been tampered with?


Very confusing. This is akin to most laws or policies. Whether researched or not, they appear to be not researched and hastily passed. Very good questions here.

What about external hard drives? What about battery backups? Battery backups are just that, a large battery for the purpose of recharging on a long flight. But some are large and may arouse suspicion. I just called the TSA help line and they don't seem to know. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I think that all of the above that don't like the policy or have concerns, should take the train or Boat!!!!

SSSS for Some Reason said...

Yes. Because everyone knows a fully charged batter is so much safer than an discharged battery.

Can the TSA explain in any way the reasons for this bit of security theater?

And while you compose your carefully worded non-answer let me deflect you away from what will be the obvious answer....

A laptop battery, for example, is about so-big. An equal amount of explosive will look like a battery on the x-ray machine. OK, fine.... power up the laptop to make sure it is a battery and not a bomb.

But....

There is, believe it or not, a lot of empty space inside of a laptop, plenty of space to put in the bad stuff AND still leave the battery in place.

Or....

A smaller batter that will power up the screen and keep it running for a minute or three with a slightly smaller amount of bad stuff.

Or....

Not even bother with the laptop idea and just just pack the power supply with bad stuff. It is a bigger space, is already heavy, and unless you are providing a mains to plug into is going to go relatively unnoticed.

Or.... you don't check baggage. At least not to anything anyone would call a secure standard. So why wouldn't the bad guys simply check their bomb in the luggage with a timer?

And I'm not even a bad guy and I just thought up three ways to get around your silly request to power on electronics.

You have to go away TSA. You need to follow the same model as the FAA.... you write the standards that others have to follow and get out of the business of providing the actual security because you have proven time and time again that you can't do it effectively. At all.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised this wasn't a standard inspection already. If a seemingly electronic device is not able to power up and be functional, then it isn't what it appears to be. It is hubris to assume that a terrorist (homegrown or otherwise) is not creative and gifted with intelligence.

RB said...

If a device did in fact have a dead battery why not just ETD test that device?

Or is TSA's ETD testing ineffective and just another act in the show?

Anonymous said...

RB said...
If a device did in fact have a dead battery why not just ETD test that device?

Or is TSA's ETD testing ineffective and just another act in the show?

July 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM
__________
RB, TSA cannot mandate what technology airlines or foreign airports use to screen people/property. They have to enure that they meet security levels and to do that they have to find the "lowest tech" ways to do so. Plus, this is an early roll out. To assume that all airports around the world have ETD machines is slightly silly.

SSSS for Some Reason said...

"...Anonymous said...
I think that all of the above that don't like the policy or have concerns, should take the train or Boat!!!!"

Yes!

Because we should all have to give up something so fundamental as travelling just so you can feel comfortable and safe.

Wouldn't you prefer to have actual security? Something that actually made you safe? Wouldn't you prefer to choose the more adult model and take responsibility for your own safety instead of handing that responsibility over to a bunch of folks that have silly policies like taking water away from you because it might be dangerous but who then throw it in a giant bin next to the checkpoint because its not like it is dangerous or anything......

Eastern Sunset said...

What happens to the confiscated phones and other electronic devices?

Anonymous said...

The TSA puts this vague statement out, but refuses to address any of the questions that follow. That makes me think that they didn't think this policy through and have no answers. I'll tell you one thing; if a TSA agent tries to confiscate any of my electronic equipment, we will have very big problems.

Anonymous said...

Still, the terrorists are ahead of TSA. The security hole may be fixed in electronics but the terrorists are implanting explosives on suicidal terrorists, either in body cavities or surgically. Time to utilise full body cavity searches on all passengers and crew and disallow anyone with healing scars from travel. America has to get serious about security.

Anonymous said...

Secretary Johnson's statement that you link to says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about electronic devices. So why then does your blog post have "Electronic Devices" in the title? If there is a directive regarding electronic devices, please provide the correct link. Otherwise, stop misleading the public with unofficial statements about electronic devices. Where is the official statement FROM SECRETARY JOHNSON that says "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft".

Anonymous said...

i am curious as to how many of the bloggers on here are experts at security and know what they are talking about. i am not saying that tsa knows but i am curious as to what experts that we have on here that are assisting the people that view this blog. if you do not have any idea of what you are talking about then just stop and yes reading things on the internet does not make you an expert. i have seen many anti-tsa comments made based off of wikipedia "facts" and other non-factual websites. bash the tsa all you want but dont provide information on subjects that you know nothing about.

Anonymous said...

How will you clear battery cases, such as these?

http://www.macworld.com/article/2045268/review-best-battery-cases-for-the-iphone-5.html

The entire device is a battery, and the battery by itself has no way of indicating that it's actually on.

As others have pointed out, this seems like a very ill-thought out policy that adds no security and is full of so many loopholes that I can drive a 747 through.

Anonymous said...

Or how about an external hard drive memory card reader, that a savvy tourist who takes lots of photos might very well use.

http://www.macworld.com/article/2362249/kingston-mobilelite-wireless-review-sd-card-reader-for-your-ipad-or-iphone.html

Are you trying to say that the presence of an LED light is sufficient to prove that the divide is not a bomb?

And in the stock photo you used in this post, how will you prove that a device's power is really that?

Anonymous said...

he is an interesing article on this topic
http://www.wired.com/2014/07/tsa-cell-phone-ban/

RB said...

Anonymous said...
RB said...
If a device did in fact have a dead battery why not just ETD test that device?

Or is TSA's ETD testing ineffective and just another act in the show?

July 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM
__________
RB, TSA cannot mandate what technology airlines or foreign airports use to screen people/property. They have to enure that they meet security levels and to do that they have to find the "lowest tech" ways to do so. Plus, this is an early roll out. To assume that all airports around the world have ETD machines is slightly silly.

July 9, 2014 at 1:34 PM
..............
Really, then how can TSA mandate screening processes to sovereign countries?

In this particular instance TSA is mandating that all electronics will be shown to functioning or they will be confiscated.

If fact why should the United States have any say in how another country conducts security screenings?

TSA is just a cancer on the world.

Anonymous said...

I saw a story on NBC last night that said some people on US domestic flights will have to power on their devices. It sounds like this program is being expanded. Will everyone flying in the US have to power on their devices eventually?

What happens to devices that can't power up? Does a passenger get to leave screening to mail or check the device? For some reason I see a bunch of screeners taking home a lot of expensive electronics. If someone doesn't take them home, I hope such dangerous devices aren't allowed to be thrown in an ordinary trash can like so many dangerous water bottles.

Anonymous said...

RB said...
Anonymous said...
RB said...
If a device did in fact have a dead battery why not just ETD test that device?

Or is TSA's ETD testing ineffective and just another act in the show?

July 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM
__________
RB, TSA cannot mandate what technology airlines or foreign airports use to screen people/property. They have to enure that they meet security levels and to do that they have to find the "lowest tech" ways to do so. Plus, this is an early roll out. To assume that all airports around the world have ETD machines is slightly silly.

July 9, 2014 at 1:34 PM
..............
Really, then how can TSA mandate screening processes to sovereign countries?

In this particular instance TSA is mandating that all electronics will be shown to functioning or they will be confiscated.

If fact why should the United States have any say in how another country conducts security screenings?

TSA is just a cancer on the world.


July 10, 2014 at 9:01 AM
_______________________________

If you read the CFR it is not the country who is responsible for screening, but the airline who is responsible. The screening can be done by the airline, at the gate for example, or the country can take over that security procedure for the airline. The TSA is not telling countries what to do. It is telling AIRLINES who fly in and out of the U.S. what to do. They can do this by law because the TSA regulates these companies. I am a nerd and like reading Codes of Federal Regulations.

Anonymous said...

No answers to any of the tough questions asked here about this policy?

I'm shocked!

Lisa Simeone said...

Eastern Sunset said...
What happens to the confiscated phones and other electronic devices?
July 9, 2014 at 2:43 PM


They're sold at state surplus stores. I'd post a link to sources verifying this, but the moderators here usually don't allow my comments to post. If this one does, it's only because I've just pointed out that pesky fact and they're trying to pretend that they don't censor comments.

Anonymous said...

"...If a seemingly electronic device is not able to power up and be functional, then it isn't what it appears to be. It is hubris to assume that a terrorist (homegrown or otherwise) is not creative and gifted with intelligence."

Wouldn't creative, intelligent terrorists already be a step ahead of this?

"i am curious as to how many of the bloggers on here are experts at security and know what they are talking about..."

I am not an expert in security, but Bruce Schneier (schneier.com) is. Read what he says. He is not the only highly respected expert who has weighed in on TSA procedures, but his writings are easy to find.

I am fully qualified to expect the government to which I pay taxes to provide cost-benefit assessments to justify its expenditure of tax dollars on things like the liquid ban, the BDO program, the whole body scanners, and this latest policy on electronic devices. I am fully qualified to expect my government to answer reasonable questions about said policy.

Anonymous said...

"...They have to enure that they meet security levels and to do that they have to find the "lowest tech" ways to do so."

...which would be a dog trained to detect explosives.

Anonymous said...

So when are you going to talk about the government contractor you're going to be buying fancy, overpriced "explosive trace detectors" so we don't have to power up our electronics? You'll be able to crow how "in the US, you don't have to turn on your electronics! USA! USA!"

Anyone? West? Lynn? Buehler?

Anonymous said...

It looks like the TSA is changing its rules so if someone shows up at an airport and you demand he turn on his phone, and it won't power up, that the TSA will NOT allow the flyer to go put it in his car, give it to a friend, mail it, etc. Instead, the TSA will immediately confiscate the phone.

Operations Directive 400.5, aka SEL-001

http://flyingwithfish.boardingarea.c...s-whos-behind/

Any comment from the Team? Any TSA webpage available to the public where we can read it officially from the TSA?

RB said...

Getting a bomb on a plane was not the goal of 9/11 terrorists. No, they were not thinking that small unlike TSA. Terrorist would go for something big like using airplanes as guided missiles. TSA as usual is barking like a little dog. Lots of noise no bite.

Anonymous said...

Everybody: Configure a password/gesture/keycode security on your phones, tablets, laptops, etc, so that your desktop/homescreen is _not_ visible upon power up or "swiping" of the screen after power up.

As of the supreme court decision about device searches requiring a search warrant, anything that a pretend-LEO or actual LEO sees will be used to justify an "justifiable suspicion" search (read:unwarranted and illegal) search of your electronic devices. This is because once they see your desktop/screen, your entire device qualifies as "unlocked" and therefore "in plain view" searchable container.

Screenshot taken.

Wintermute said...

Anonymous said...
"i am curious as to how many of the bloggers on here are experts at security and know what they are talking about."

I am a security expert. I know what I'm talking about. Are you? Do you?

Anonymous said...

rb said:
"TSA is just a cancer on the world."
yet another over dramatic statement that made e spit my coffee this morning. thanks for keeping up on the humor rb

RB said...

Apparently ID doesn't really matter!

EXCLUSIVE: TSA ALLOWING ILLEGALS TO FLY WITHOUT VERIFIABLE ID, SAYS BORDER PATROL UNION

"MCALLEN, Texas—Illegal aliens are being allowed to fly on commercial airliners without valid identification, according to the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC). “The aliens who are getting released on their own recognizance are being allowed to board and travel commercial airliners by simply showing their Notice to Appear forms,” NBPC’s Local 2455 Spokesman, Hector Garza, told Breitbart Texas."

TSA TREATS CITIZENS LIKE CRIMINALS AND GIVE FREE PASSES TO REAL CRIMINALS.

DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"The rule change may be obnoxious, but it’s not stupid, says Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, notorious for its strict screening procedures. The TSA is likely responding to new intelligence that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has developed explosives that are difficult to detect with current technology, Ron says. That calls for a change in procedure."

Anonymous said...

It's been over 48 hours since I submitted comment on this post, which complied with commenting policy. Why hasn't my comment been approved? Will it be approved or has it been deleted?

Mount Jerry said...

Any news about the new ETD you'll be rolling out soon? Y'know, the one that is the real reason for this recent flurry of checking electronics?

Will this comment make it past TSA censors?

*screen shot taken*

@skywaymanaz said...

RB said...

"MCALLEN, Texas—Illegal aliens are being allowed to fly on commercial airliners without valid identification, according to the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC)."

Does that really surprise anyone? TSA had no problem implementing what amounts to an internal passport system with the ID requirement, including gender and DOB, but waives it for non citizens who frankly they should be concerned about.

Also am I the only peron who remembers when Bob posted on here every week how many people were caught with fake ID's at the checkpoint? Those posts seem to have gone away likely due to political concerns since it always well the same demographic as above instead of terrorists.

Anonymous said...

Great information. "Powerless devices will not be allowed on the plane." Why not be more specific? I wanted to fly overseas tomorrow with just an external hard drive and no computer. Are peripherals considered to be powerless if you don't have a computer to connect them to. My poor, poor country. Where have all of the Brains gone???

Anonymous said...

Wintermute said...
I am a security expert. I know what I'm talking about. Are you? Do you?

excellent then i will pay more attention to your posts. i cant wait for you to let us know why tsa is no good. do you have a webiste or blog?

Anonymous said...

I use a Mac mini to work. I travel a lot with it. I no longer can I take it with me?

Wintermute said...

Anonymous said...
"Wintermute said...
I am a security expert. I know what I'm talking about. Are you? Do you?"

excellent then i will pay more attention to your posts. i cant wait for you to let us know why tsa is no good. do you have a webiste or blog?


I have mentioned several reasons in the past of why the TSA is security theater. The first and foremost reason is the apparent lack of any risk analysis. One has to take into an account how likely an event is to occur, the costs of the event occurring, and the cost to prevent the event from occurring. Terrorism is a very rare event. Preventing terrorism is worthwhile, but because of the rarity, not at the current prices (both monetary and other). And yes, I have a blog (I've linked to it in the past), but I currently do not cover security on it.

Anonymous said...

What about a personal vibrator?

Anonymous said...

What of battery banks? I am a very frequent traveler for my job and carry one to charge my phone or MiFi device if I am in a spot where I have no access to AC (like the airport and everyone has the outlets taken up). This is going to slow security down immensely. I would have to power up half a dozen devices to show them to be OK.

I agree with the theater comments. I know people who have boarded planes with knives and one fellow who boarded not once but twice with a folding camping saw that could cut a man's head off.

Now with illegals being allowed to board with easily counterfeited "documents" it is even worse.

I don't feel one iota safer going through this charade.

Anonymous said...

Is this ridiculous rule going to end at the end of June?

Anonymous said...

This is really great news....just another reason to make the waiting lines longer than they already are.