Category Archives: Airport Security

A Deeper Look At Risk-Based Security

By Eli Rassi
Yves Duguay, president, HCiWorld (Heimdall – Cissonius Inc.) dealt with the acceptability of risk and categorically analyzing the possibility of catastrophic events. When thinking about risk perspective, Duguay notes that it’s not about minimizing the potential security risks facing the aviation industry, but putting that risk up against others that may also happen, albeit on a much smaller scale. The calculations done in the field about relative risk must be considered when looking to providing solutions as a whole, rather than the impact of these decisions on a layer-by-layer basis. For example, federal regulators look at precautionary and maximum strategies, but not risk probability.

Duguay also spoke about the fear and perception related to catastrophic events in the aviation industry, and how that perception impacts the public. Duguay notes that one size does not fit all, and leverage big data to screen passengers based on their risk profile. Also, it will help determine the cost and sustainability of these security measures and allow airports to adapt accordingly.

Dr. Erroll Southers, from the University of Southern California, spoke about the “research-based” approach to calculating and evaluating security risk to understand the requirements, needs, and metrics. This involves consulting with a variety of stakeholder groups to understand specific needs and identify the correlations between them all.

These solutions specifically designed to operate efficiently within various infrastructures, such as rail systems and airports, make risk-based security adaptable and smarter. It helps airports save money, for example LAX, which after deploying ARMOR (randomized, risk-based game theory) to defend the five roads leading up to the airport, cut its overtime bill by 40 percent.

Southers noted that it is the efforts of those who are responsible for keeping the airport safe that deserve credit for the work they do, but I think it’s safe to say that due to Southers’ research, and others like it, these officers benefit from working smarter due to the risk-based approach guiding their operations.

MPC Coming Soon to an Nearby Airport

By Caroline O’Reilly
MPC might not signify anything in particular now, but it could become the most popular three letters, after your airport’s code.

This afternoon during the conference’s press briefing, ACI-NA and Airside Mobile provided a sneak peek at Mobile Passport Control, a.k.a. MPC, which promises to help trim the amount of time spent waiting in line to clear Customs when entering the U.S.  A smartphone app similar in functionality to the automated kiosks currently available at O’Hare and Vancouver International airports, MPC will allow passengers to input their customs declaration and passport information and upload a photograph directly to CBP’s system.

“MPC will create a faster, easier experience for processing through Customs, which will really help travelers when they are tired and just want to get to their home or hotel,” said Hans Miller, Airside Mobile’s CEO.  “If you’ve ever used your phone to get a boarding pass or a movie ticket, you’ll feel right at home with this new process”

ACI-NA and Airside Mobile are working closely with CBP’s Office of Field Operations and Office of Informational Technology to put the final touch on MPC, which should be live by the end of the year.  Stayed tuned for future updates from ACI-NA on which airports will be in the inaugural class of MPC adoptees and when the app become available to travelers for both Android and iOS.

One-Size-Fits-All Must Give Way to Risk-Based Security

By Christopher Bidwell
By 2024, the FAA predicts that the U.S. commercial aviation industry will transport over 1 billion passengers annually. With increasing passenger and cargo volumes and limited resources in the US, Canada and internationally, a risk-based aviation security system just makes sense. TSA has developed and implemented a risk-based known traveler program, PreCheck, which utilizes available data to assess risk and focus screening resources on those passengers about whom the least is known, and Transport Canada has a similar system.

We also need to abandon the “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulation and transition from prescriptive to performance-based security measures, and this is an area where Transport Canada is leading the charge.

International coordination and collaboration is critical to allow us to formalize risk-based initiatives, address the global aviation security challenge and develop a sustainable aviation system where passengers can transit seamlessly across international borders.

This afternoon, at the ACI-NA Annual Conference in Calgary, a panel of senior representatives from TSA, Transport Canada, ACI Europe and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University tackled these and other topics.

In discussing the programs TSA has launched to transition from a one-size fits all approach to aviation security, Doug Hofsass, associate administrator for risk-based security, discussed the expansion of TSA’s known traveler program, PreCheck, which is currently operational at 23 airports, and the plan to further expand the program to an additional 12 airports in 2012. To date, more than 2.7 million passengers have experienced expedited screening through TSA PreCheck screening lanes and TSA anticipates screening the 3 millionth passenger next week.

In order to expand the number of passengers eligible to participate in PreCheck and in accordance with an ACI-NA recommendation, Hofsass encouraged enrollment in Customs and Border Protection’s international trusted traveler programs, Global Entry and NEXUS.

Hofsass also mentioned the known crewmember program, through which uniformed pilots are subjected to identity-based screening and provided expedited access to sterile areas. The program is currently in place at 20 airports. By the end of the year, TSA plans to have the program in place and operational at 31 airports, including 28 Category X airports.

Another expansion of its risk-based security initiative involves enhancements to the screening of passengers 70 and older, who no longer need to remove light coats and jackets or their shoes. This program also allows children 12 and under to keep their shoes on when being screened at security checkpoints. After a pilot test at several large airports, the program was expanded to airports nationwide.

Although rudely interrupted by the clanging of a fire alarm bell being tested during the session, Erin O’Gorman, director general, aviation security, Transport Canada, mentioned that Canada has already begun to implement several initiatives outlined in the Beyond the Border Action Plan, jointly signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barrack Obama. First, special lanes have been put in place at Canadian Pre-Clearance airports for NEXUS members. Second, Canada and the U.S. reached an agreement to mutually recognize their cargo security programs. Third, but definitely not last, Canada and the U.S. are collaborating on the development of known and trusted traveler programs, something that will allow Canadian NEXUS card holders to benefit from TSA PreCheck at some point in the future.

It was also refreshing to hear O’Gorman recount a recent discussion with Transport Canada inspectors who reported that the relationship with industry has transformed into a security partnership.

O’Gorman also raised the potential challenge of resilience of the aviation system in the face of some threat we haven’t seen or considered, and suggested that the political will to accept a certain amount of risk may be tested in the face of a future incident. Hopefully, the progress that has been made in advancing risk-based initiatives will not be jeopardized by some unforeseen event.

If and when we in the aviation community are faced with the next incident, we simply cannot abandon risk-based security measures. To do so would result in a regression to the costly and inefficient one-size-fits-all approach we striving diligently to abandon.

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe director general, mentioned that our system is still very reactive, particularly in Europe, and therefore, there are a lot of inefficiencies even though a substantial amount of data and intelligence information exists which could be leveraged to inform and focus limited screening resources.

In Europe, airports – not the government(s) – provide almost all the aviation security operational costs. Indeed, 29 percent of airports operating costs and 41 percent of airports staff are security related. With security costs increasing exponentially, there is even more need for a coordinated approach to aviation security.

Richard Bloom, associate vice president, academics, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University indicated that risk-based security can be a challenge in the absence of information or data. He also suggested that most people tend to focus on the defensive security layers as opposed to offensive “tools” such as intelligence information, which can be utilized to help eradicate the threat.

Clearly, based on several recent events, we need to leverage every aspect of available intelligence information. Enhanced coordination and communication between countries, sharing pertinent security information can certainly help in filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle thus helping to mitigate threats.

Bloom also indicated that terrorism can be very effective because of the psychological impact on the survivors. He also mentioned that security is always an unfinished task.

As aviation traffic continues to grow, we need a risk-based aviation security system that uses available data to more effectively balance customer service and detection. Information is available at multiple points that can be readily utilized to help focus limited security resources on those about which the least is known. Collectively, we need to work together – across international borders – to address the global aviation security challenge through risk-based security measures and programs.



Kneaded by TSA

By Stephenie Brooks
Faced with the prospects of an eight-hour total travel time—including flight time and layover—what passenger wouldn’t welcome a free massage? But who would expect if from TSA? That’s right. You read it correctly: TSA!

While traveling over the weekend from an airport in the Mountain States, I was the recipient of this unexpected treatment. After going through the AIT, I stepped aside while my gumby image cleared. I was then asked if a female TSA agent could check my hair. I was surprised, but didn’t make a fuss. At six-feet, the agent had to stand on her tippy toes to check my hair. Luckily for her, I was not wearing my customary 3-inch (minimum) heels. After three quick kneads to my scalp it was over. “Free head massage,” she commented smilingly as I grabbed my bags and headed to the gate.

Sitting in the departure lounge thinking about the incident, I smiled. At least I hadn’t been kneaded south of my neck nor did I have to warn her not to “touch the junk in my trunk.” However, I did wonder if in this part of the U.S. whether or not people were used to seeing dreadlocks. (In case you don’t what they are or look like, here’s an image). In a more cosmopolitan city, my dreadlocks don’t even warrant a second glance. But then again, neither would I have received a free head massage . . . compliments of TSA.

After doing some research and talking with a security expert, I learned that in certain cases a travelers’ hair or headwear could potentially conceal items, and may need to be screened by TSA Transportation Security Officers. The TSA Blog  and public Web site provided some useful information about the reason I received a free massage.

Airports Applaud U.S.-Canada Efforts to Improve Facilitation and Security at Border

By Morgan Dye

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) today submitted comments in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Request for Public Comments regarding “U.S.-Canada Action Plan for Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness”. In the filed comments, ACI-NA applauded the plan announced on December 7, 2011 by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper as “a good first step in improving the facilitation and security of trade, air travel, and the associated economic benefits for both countries”.  The comments also stressed the importance of the U.S. and Canadian Governments coordinating with ACI-NA on the aviation components as the Action Plan is refined and implemented.

“ACI-NA has long urged the Department to take a risk-based approach to security by focusing our limited government and industry resources on those people and goods about which the least is known,” said ACI-NA President Greg Principato. “Therefore, we were pleased that the Declaration by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper on February 4, 2011 stated ‘we expect to use a risk management approach’ and that ‘effective risk management should enable us to accelerate legitimate flows of people and goods into the United States and Canada and across our common border, while enhancing the physical security and economic competitiveness of our countries’.”

ACI-NA’s comments also noted the importance of the process outlined in the Action Plan to phase out the requirement for rescreening connecting checked baggage arriving at U.S. gateway airports. “We view this initiative as providing one of the most important aviation improvements in the Action Plan”, said Principato.

“For years, ACI-NA has been working on potential solutions with TSA, DHS and Congress to eliminate this redundant rescreening process because it unnecessarily drains limited TSA and industry resources and inconveniences passengers without providing meaningful security benefits.  Elimination of rescreening of connecting checked baggage will free up some TSA resources, minimize the operational burden on U.S. airports; decrease flight delays; minimize misconnected checked baggage; and improve the passenger travel experience,” he continued.

View ACI-NA’s full comments.