We have to hand it to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). They seem to have a perfect track record of screwing up – and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish if you think about it. If it’s not reports of TSA agents stealing valuables or inappropriately groping passengers, there is the fun fact that in all the years since it was created in 2001, the agency hasn’t caught a single person seeking to do harm in the friendly skies. We’re actually okay with that if it means nobody is trying to do anything shady.
The most recent TSA folly seemed to practically fall into the Internet’s lap when a reporter for the The Washington Post published a hi-res picture of the entire set of TSA master keys while writing an article about how the TSA handles your bags after checking them at the counter. Well, the lock picking community when nuts and in a short time had 3D printed versions available and working. You can see it in action in the (twitter) video after the break.
For those that are not familiar with travel in the US, you are not allowed to use just any old lock on your bags. It has to be approved by the TSA – and that means that they have to be able to open it. So the TSA agents have a set of master keys that can open any bag if they need to look inside for some reason. If you put a non-TSA approved lock on the bag, that can make them a little angry, and you risk having your bag delayed or even cut open.
Of course, you can get into just about any suitcase with a ball point pen, so maybe this isn’t a real “security” issue, but it sure isn’t what you want to see from the agency that is supposed to protect you. Who knew that you could make keys from a photograph? We did way back in 2009 and way more in depth this May… maybe the TSA should start reading Hackaday?
Continue reading “Dear TSA: This is Why You Shouldn’t Post Pictures of Your Keys Online”
What can you do with needles, disposable syringes, superglue, cotton swabs, and scissors? If you answered ‘get hassled by TSA agents’, you’d be right, but you could also do what [Mski] did and make a pocket dart gun!
[Mski] used a 10mL syringe and a clear BiC pen body. He glued the pen barrel to the needle adapter on the syringe to make the chamber. He made the darts by cutting cotton swabs in half and inserting glue-covered needles. If you’ve never cut a cotton swab in half, they are hollow inside. What he has there are actually straight pins, which are cheaper than needles and come in larger quantities. The good news is you can make a bandolier of darts without breaking the bank.
Load your gun by shoving spitballs and/or darts up the chamber with a thin wooden stick, like a bamboo skewer. If you use your wife’s knitting needle, we recommend putting it back where you found it.
Do you prefer flaming projectiles and find clothespins easier to come by? Are you a hemophiliac or needle-phobic? Make this mini matchstick gun instead.
[Badmonky] was facing a life crisis. How could he enjoy the hard-to-find German beers from his homeland while living in Princeton, New Jersey? Sure, you can find many good imports if you try, but that may come at a hefty price. Plus, the lesser known beers are completely unavailable in the States. Of course the solution is to import them himself after each trip home. He just needed a way to get as much beer on a plane as he possibly could.
We’d have no problem walking down the aisle with a couple of cases of cold ones, but let’s be honest here. Security won’t even let you on the plane with a bottle of water these days much less a case of tallboys. [Badmonky] hacked together this custom carrier so that it could be checked as luggage while protecting the frothy goodness. Two limiting factors to consider are size and weight. He started with the latter, calculating that 24 bottles would remain under his 50 pound limit. From there he selected a sports bag and picked up sheets of foam which were perforated using a hole saw. Alas the size constraint forced him to leave three of the (now empty?) vessels behind.
The bottles ride upside down and made the international voyage without incident. In retrospect he would have picked a roller-bag as this thing is hard on your shoulder after a trip through the airport and the public transit ride home.
The real question in our mind: why didn’t he check a keg?
You really should check out the monthly meetings at your local hackerspace. It’s an excellent opportunity to hear the most interesting stories. Like the tale of how the guys from Sector67 got this electric vehicle on the plane with them. Not only did it go up in the air, but they did zero planning ahead of time on how they would actually pull it off.
[Bob Baddeley] posted an album of the PRC experience at World Maker Faire. There are captions that somewhat tell the tale, but we’ll fill you in as best we can on the rest of the story behind this second car from the hackerspace — lovingly known as the Lamebourghini.
Continue reading “How this Power Racing Series Car got on a Plane to WMF”
[Ben Krasnow] built his own version of the TSA’s body scanner. The device works by firing a beam of x-rays at at target. Some of the beam will go through the target, some will be absorbed by the target, and some will reflect back. These reflected x-rays are called ‘backscatter‘, and they are captured to create an image.
In [Ben]’s setup a rotating disk focuses x-rays into beams that travel in arcs across the X-axis. The disk is moved along the Y-axis to fill in the scan. On the disk assembly, there is a potentometer to measure the y-axis position of the beam, and an optical sensor to trigger an oscilloscope, aligning the left and right sides of the image. Using these two sensors, the scope can reconstruct an X-Y plot of the scan.
To detect the x-rays, a phosphorous screen turns the backscattered x-rays into visible light, and a photo-multiplier amplifies the light source. A simple amplifier circuit connects the photo-multiplier to a scope, controlling the brightness at each point.
The result is very similar to the TSA version, and [Ben] managed to learn a lot about the system from a patent. This isn’t the first body scanner we’ve seen though: [Jeri Ellsworth] built a microwave version a couple years ago.
The impressive build does a great job of teaching the fundamentals of backscatter imaging. [Ben] will be talking about the project at EHSM, which you should check out if you’re in Berlin from December 28th to the 30th. After the break, watch [Ben]’s machine scan a turkey in a Christmas sweater.
Continue reading “DIY TSA Backscatter Body Scanner”
Some electronics professionals have to fly relatively frequently. One such person, [Steve Hoefer] shares with us how to properly fly with your exposed wires and bits without getting nabbed by the TSA for suspicion of being a terrorist. The article is fairly in depth with tips on how to handle most situations including being pulled aside and put in a tiny room for questioning. Most of it boils down to the fact that you can’t expect the TSA agents to be experts in everything. They see stuff that is slightly out of the norm, they have to follow up. We’re not talking about pat-downs and body scanners here, we’re talking about circuit boards, duct tape, and battery packs.
One story [Steve] shares is especially humorous. He noted that the servos had been disconnected from one of his robots. He wonders, why disconnect them? If they were suspected of being an explosive, they shouldn’t have messed with them. If they weren’t… why did they un-plug them?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, long-time defenders of the common man’s rights in the electronic realm, has published a guide to keeping your digital devices private when entering the United States. It seems the defenders of freedom and liberty (ICE, DHS, TSA, and CBP) are able to take a few freedoms with your liberty at a border crossing by seizing your devices and copies of the data they store for up to five days. This requires no suspicion of wrongdoing, and copies of this data may be shared with other agencies thereby negating the five day limit.
Do you have a reason to protect your digital property? This is discussed in the paper. It may be confidential information, by way of a business contract or professional relationship (Doctors, Lawyers, Journalists, etc.). Or you may just want to keep your privacy on principle. No matter what your stance, the EFF has covered all the bases in this intriguing read. We think the best advice they give is to make an encrypted backup of your data on the internet, blank your computer before the border crossing, and restore it when you get to your destination. If you don’t have the data with you, it can’t be compromised. It that’s not an option, they have plenty of guidelines on cryptographic techniques.
Continue reading “EFF on securing digital information when crossing the border”