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You want to take my bottled water?

These past few years we’ve seen airport security being tightened alot. This is on part due to recent terrorist attacks. Some examples are the Twin Towers incident (USA – 09/11-01), the bombs in Bali (Indonesia – 10/12-02), bombs on commuter trains in Madrid (Spain – 03/11-04) and the situation with the hostages in Beslan (Russia – 09/01-04). The incidents I have listed are the ‘major’ ones in the time after 09/11, and have all served to make politicians and law-makers around the world see that something had to be done about security.

What they did was basicly two things:

Impose more tracking of travellers Restrictions on what you can bring

I guess the tightest security is what you face when you need to travel by plane. Take my last trip to the US for example. I flew out from Bergen (Norway), landed in Amsterdam (Netherlands), and got a plane from there to the US. When I arrived in Amsterdam I had to pass no more than three security-checkpoints where they went through my bags, x-rayed my laptop and asked me a whole lot of questions about my trip.

After passing the first of these checkpoints I found a kiosk where I bought two bottles of water (0.7 litres) and a bag of raisins and assorted nuts. The lady put the nuts and bottles of water in a bag, put the reciept in a special pocket on the inside, and sealed it all up. That ought to be enough to let me get it on the plane, shouldn’t it?

When I came to the next checkpoint my stuff was x-rayed again, and I was summarily pulled aside by a bloke in uniform. He was civil enough (no complaints there) and explained to me that he had to take the water, but that I could keep my nuts (phun intended). Naturally I pointed to the reciept and the fact that the bag was sealed and asked if that was not enough. His reply: “It could have been faked.”

So, not wanting to miss my flight over some bottles of water, I took the nuts and let him keep the water. The people in security are not the right crew to start arguing with. I got on the plane (after passing the third and last checkpoint) and all went without a hitch. Soon, after some hours of sleep, the ridiculus fingerprint+photo-session to get into the US, and some waiting for a cab, I found myself in New York. Yay.

So, to the point of this post. They have incrediby stringent security measures these days. Some, including myself, would argue that they invade on peoples privacy in a not so fortunate manner. However, if fewer planes are hijacked, so be it. I begin to protest when it becomes apparent that they are not stringent all across the board. How is internal control done? How is quality assurance done? Do they audit airport-employees in any way? I do not know the answer to those questions, but I would sure like to.

Here the other day (monday 03/10-08) I went to the gym as I normally do a couple of times a week. After my session there I went back to the locker-room to change, and there greeted me a sight that I am not likely to forget any time soon: a uniform from someone working at a Norwegian company called Securitas. That in itself is not really that bad, but when the uniform has “Airport Security” written on it AND a keycard still attached to it, that is cause for concern.

The owner was nowhere to be seen, and had probably been away from it for well over an hour. It was not as if there was a lack of available lockers. I counted 10+ when I was there.


Overview Pants Shirt

How easy would it not be for someone to swipe the card (hell, I’ve even got a card-reader myself), take a picture of the front, and after making a fake card do some social engineering to get access to areas one never should have access to? Security researches have again and again proved how incredibly easy security is fooled, and it does not make it any better that the employees of security firms responsible for securing hundreds upon thousand of travelers fail to take their jobs seriously.

I have decided to post the pictures I took here on the internet, in hopes that something will be done to better the security and internal control of these firms. Quality assurance and control is not only something that should be applied to physical products. The people in such high-impact professions should be expected to be better than this.

Remember: A chain is not stronger than it’s weakest link.