[ISN] Planes still at risk from terrorists

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Sun Feb 17 2002 - 22:46:17 PST

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    [While this post on the surface has nothing to do with infosec, there
    is a little lesson here about watching parts of your security where
    you're pretty sure things are nice, tight, safe & secure. At least
    this was the feeling at a secure wing of Heathrow Airport. :)  - WK]
    By Michael Holden 
    14 February, 2002 08:52 GMT 
    LONDON (Reuters) - Passenger jets are as vulnerable to terrorism as 
    they were before September 11 despite tightened security measures, 
    aviation experts say. 
    Claims that security has been significantly improved, particularly in 
    the United States, were little more than "a lot of noise and public 
    relations spin", Chris Yates, airport security editor for Jane's 
    Defence Weekly, told Reuters. 
    In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks when suicide hijackers 
    flew planes into New York's World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in 
    Washington killing more than 3,000, tougher security was introduced at 
    airports worldwide. 
    Searches on check-in have grown more rigorous, all sharp objects, from 
    knives to tweezers, are removed from passengers, and plastic cutlery 
    has replaced metal knives and forks on board planes. 
    Yates's comments come after two major breaches of security at British 
    airports in the last week. In the first, an operator in charge of a 
    scanning machine at Manchester Airport flunked a security test by 
    allowing guns, fake explosives and bomb-making equipment onto a 
    passenger flight. 
    On Monday, robbers stole $6.5 million in a raid on a British Airways 
    van in a secure area at London's Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest 
    international hub. 
    "If you can drive into an airfield to steal $6.5 million, you can 
    easily drive in and plant a bomb," Yates said. 
    Both incidents showed the industry was still vulnerable to the "human 
    factor", Tim Spicer, a mercenary turned security consultant, told 
    "I was pretty staggered that the Heathrow incident took place," said 
    Spicer, head of Strategic Consulting International, which recently 
    audited security at Sri Lankan airports. 
    "The danger is keeping up security, as guarding is pretty mind-numbing 
    stuff. When you don't have an incident, it's human nature for people 
    to slack off." 
    In December, French authorities failed to stop Richard Reid, the 
    Briton suspected of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with 
    explosives hidden in his shoe, from boarding an American Airlines 
    plane from Paris to Miami. 
    The 28-year-old was overpowered by passengers and crew but only after 
    an alert flight attendant saw him apparently trying to set his shoes 
    on fire. 
    The Department of Transport, which is responsible for UK airport 
    security, has demanded urgent answers into the security breach at 
    Heathrow. All staff should be searched before entering restricted 
    zones at airports, a spokeswoman told Reuters. 
    "We're not complacent about aviation security. We have got some of the 
    most stringent aviation security programmes in the world and these 
    remain at a heightened level," she said. 
    But a government source admitted to Reuters it was impossible to 
    achieve 100 percent security without bringing the industry to a 
    Last November, President George W. Bush vowed "permanent and 
    aggressive steps" to bolster security in the U.S. with stronger 
    cockpit doors, armed marshals on planes, better technology and the 
    hiring of 28,000 federal baggage screeners within a year. 
    "The U.S. is making a lot of fuss but very few orders have been made 
    for any new equipment and the ultimate goal of having 100 percent 
    baggage screening in place by the end of the year isn't going to 
    happen," Yates said. 
    "The industry has been guilty of going for high-profile security, 
    bolting the front door but leaving the back door wide open. There are 
    any number of U.S. airfields where the perimeter security is downright 
    Spicer, a former British army lieutenant colonel who made headlines in 
    the late 1990s as a gun for hire in Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea, 
    said it was exactly this vulnerable "back-door" that terrorists would 
    look to exploit. 
    "It's much more likely that an attempt to put something on a plane 
    will be done through the back door than someone trying to carry it 
    on," he said. 
    "You can have a good system but you will always have your little 
    Trojan Horse. That's the worry." 
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