back to article USA to insist on pre-flight mobe power probe

The USA's Transport Security Administration (TSA) has announced new, “enhanced security measures” that will require mobile phones to be charged before taken aboard international flights to the nation. The new requirement is simple. As explained here, the new arrangements will mean that “During the security examination, …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge
    WTF?

    New???

    Seems they were doing that at least 5 years ago for domestic flights. I was always asked to turn on the cell phone and laptop to verify they worked. So Stateside, we were doing something that wasn't done outside the States? Another case of left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing? Or was it that domestic terrorists were smarter than non-domestic terrorists????

    Enquiring minds and all that.....

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: New???

      Yeah, and it isn't as if you couldn't put a smaller battery in the device and use the rest of the cavity for something with a little more "bang" for your buck...

      Checking the devices haven't been tampered with is one thing, but "just turning them on" is a little like doing an MOT by seeing if the starter motor works, without checking the brakes work...

      1. Steve 53

        Re: New???

        The electronics are getting xrayed anyway. Batteries stick out like a sore thumb on the scanners. My guess is a battery full of lithium isn't too easy to spot vs pack of something nasty - but it's easy to spot if you have a small battery next to a separate pack of something nasty in the cavity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Hysteria

          WARNING: the suspicious use of an electronic device in this aircraft may result in serious harm to the users.

          Namely being attacked by other passengers or shot by an Air Marshall.

          Of course this has coincided with airlines allowing the use of electronic devices during flight as they are now deemed 'safe'.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: New???

          "but it's easy to spot if you have a small battery next to a separate pack of something nasty in the cavity."

          Not if they are the same width unless you try and xray edge on ...

        3. Anonymous Blowhard

          Re: New???

          You definitely don't want something nasty in your cavity!

        4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: New???

          Or a laptop where you can swap the cdrom for a 2nd "battery" !

          But it would be very difficult to spot a small cellphone/tablet battery on the circuit board if both main batteries where naughty.

        5. Robert E A Harvey

          Re: easy to spot if you have a small battery

          Up to a point, Lord Copper.

          If the split is done in the thickness then maybe not. They don't x-Ray from the side.

        6. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: New???

          > it's easy to spot if you have a small battery next to a separate pack of something nasty in the cavity.

          So then... just x-ray it? My Dell has two battery compartments...

      2. Doogs
        Mushroom

        Re: New???

        My old TF101 has a rather large space in its keyboard between the battery packs with a metal weight to stop it tipping over. Easily replaced with something a bit more "energetic".

    2. LarsG

      Maybe

      Instead of asking you to turn it on and turn if off again they should check all those 3rd party chargers that have a tendency to explode.....

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Maybe

        Now I know where all the help desk drones went when the "service" was outsourced to the Sub-continent.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple

      Apple phones and devices are of course exempt.

      Something to do with them being almost impossible to repair?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple

        everyone knows that Apple phones are liable to spontaneously combusting without any changes to the battery, hence no need to turn it on to check

      2. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Apple

        According to the BBC article, I read earlier, Reuters reported that Apple and Samsung have been singled out for extra checks.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: New???

      "Seems they were doing that at least 5 years ago for domestic flights. I was always asked to turn on the cell phone and laptop to verify they worked. So Stateside, we were doing something that wasn't done outside the States?"

      Several years ago I was asked by security (at Bergamo, Italy) to switch my laptop on before I could carry on through to board my flight home to the UK.

    5. Jan 0
      Facepalm

      Re: New???

      No, this is not new in Europe either. I was asked to demonstrate that I could take a photo with my camera at NRW 3 or 4 years ago and I also remember having to boot an Asus 701 EEE PC, probably at BCN, maybe 6 years ago.

      Short memories?

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: New???

        "...demonstrate that I could take a photo with my camera at NRW..."

        Take a picture of the "PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT PERMITTED IN THE SCREENING AREA" sign.

  2. John Tserkezis

    Sounds fair as long as they can manage the queues. Especially if they want me to power up my portable NAS if I'm travelling with that.

    I'm fortunate here in Australia that no-one has asked me to take off my boots (even though I see lots of people do it in the lineup). With my two arthritic hips, it's long uncomfortable or painful procedure to get my boots off, and I'll be quite likely to say THEY can bend over and undo my laces, because I ain't going through that again. I imagine they would be less than pleased. More so when I hold up the line sitting on the floor struggling with my laces.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Although Oz is now my permanent home, the only time I've had a holdup at immigration before I settled here was at Sydney Airport when I stated I had nothing to declare and the bloke checking my passport looked up at my (admittedly garish) Manga shirt (Black, with a big yellow cloaked warrior emblazoned on the front - hey, they were all the rage..... once) and said 'Jesus, mate. I hope you're going to declare that bloody shirt!'

      I kinda fell in love with the country there and then

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Maybe the DHS and TSA should outsource their checks to Oz. Now a guy with that sort of humour checking me through security would actually make it worthwhile travelling!

        1. Daren Nestor

          Ah, airports

          I recall travelling through Heathrow and reaching a security check with an ominous "Wait here" line. Having just come from the States I obeyed it, having been yelled at for this over there. The guard looked up after a few minutes and politely enquired as to why exactly I was standing around like some kind of lemon and would i like to come forward.

          I mentioned I was just in from the States and he said "Ah, right, well we're not all wankers here". I nearly fell over laughing.

          Although my best experiences have been in Irish airports. My fellow countrypeople are very laid back

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The queues will get horrendous

    If they demand that every electronic item is powered up.

    Where will they put all the people with laptops who carry a portable HDD with them while they get all the cables out and plug everything together?

    What about all those USB Keys? They are electronic devices

    The same goes for SD cards etc.

    This is all a total waste of time. That spare bay (or even a Cd/DVD drive bay) in the laptop could contain a 'device'. The goons at Security won't know the details of each laptop and what it might contain in every nook and cranny.

    In the 1980's this was tried at Geneva airport. It didn't last very long (AFAIK).

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: The queues will get horrendous

      You've already got problems if you carry laptops or portable HDDs to the states. Not only will all your data get copied off, they may add spyware.

      1. Billa Bong

        Re: The queues will get horrendous

        I'm already on the NSA list for reading the reg, so I'm not bothered about confessing all here, but I travel to the US regularly with a laptop, spare laptop battery (not all aircraft have in seat power), external HDD, tablet, various plugs (some aircraft do have in seat power), bluetooth headset, usb keys, micro-sd cards in my phone, etc., etc. I try not to check bags so everything has to be in hand luggage. I've never once been asked to power anything on.

        The most examination I had was my electronics got swabbed for ion detection of explosives. That's by far a better way to test stuff going through than just powering it on, as the chances of you fitting explosives into your electronics without getting any on the outside is very slim. As previously noted, if everyone has to prove it by powering on, we'll all be standing in line for a very long time...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The queues will get horrendous

          I've brought an entire max legal Carry On bag (22x14x9 inches) stuffed full of nothing but gadgets. Entertainment for 5 weeks on a tropical island. Several shortwave radios just for BBC World Service.

          I hope that they don't ask me to pickup a clear shortwave signal in the depths of an airport building. What if I just happen to tune across "Radio القرآن الكريم" just at that time? Dragged outside and tasered to death?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The queues will get horrendous

      The queues will get horrendous if they demand that every electronic item is powered up.

      The irony is that you could power them up beforehand - if the use of mobile phones in the scanning area wasn't actually forbidden.

      Personally what pisses me off most is that they want you to practically take apart you and your carry-on luggage (laptops separate, keys, spare change, belt etc etc) but don't give you the space to do this. About 80% of the delay (made up statistic :) ) is spent waiting for people to re-assemble themselves post test. In some places, all you have as flat surface prior to scan is the actual Xray conveyor belt, so there is no chance to prepare much in advance and actually *help* that process along (which is in everyone's interest).

      I'm OK with having to switch on gear. Not OK with having to hand off gear.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The queues will get horrendous

        OH my tinfoil hat hurts,,,, I will seriously think about flying only off peak hours now...

        Nah - just make sure you observe which laptops people push through scanning. If you see a few old Dells I would bail..

    4. Heathroi
      Facepalm

      Re: The queues will get horrendous

      And frankly its just made terrorism easier as they don't even need to get on the plane to have the same effect. Half a dozen deluded halfwits setting off suicide vest at the same time in the lines for security at different airports would have the same effect ie air travel being effectively shut down.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Familiarity breeds contempt

    Clearly people have become used to the usual iniquities heaped on them by the TSA and are not becoming sufficiently pissed off. So to keep the PO index up and to continue justifying their jobs they have come up with this latest 'seen to be done' exercise.

  5. MartinB105

    And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

    I've flown several times carrying electronic devices that do not operate on batteries, such as my Acer Revo 3600 and my various games consoles (Wii, Wii U, PS2, PS3 and PS4). How will they handle those devices?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

      What about batteries?

      I have a 2 hour bus trip to the airport, then a 3 hour wait at the airport and then another 3 hours of bus travel once I land in Boston. So I need to carry a booster battery for my phone.. I actually use a small power pack that can be turned on ... it has some lights on it but it could still contain more explosive than a regular mobile phone.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

        "What about batteries?" - but the other way round? If like AC above, you've had mucho hours on the road before the airport and your battery is genuinely dead, what then? Presumably since this is a security measure aimed at thwarting explosive devices inside, you won't be allowed to travel with it at all, which is going to lead to lots of complications, complaints and lawsuits*. Or will they have a set of power sockets for you to run off, including a multitude of adapters and power supplies?

        The mind boggles - this is a REALLY bad idea. Why do they have explosive-detection kits if they're gonna introduce this BS?

        *TSA don't care about Joe Citizens' laptop, but when this happens to some executive's corporate laptop stuffed to the brim with corporate scerets?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

          >"What about batteries?" -

          Simple, you have to turn the device on to prove that the battery in it isn't a cunningly designed bomb which looks just like a battery. The other 2 spare batteries you are carrying can just go through the x-ray.

          Of course there is no need to disguise a bomb as a Li-Ion battery when the regular Li-Ion battery contains as much explosive energy as a bomb and is much more likely to go off.

        2. Peter 39

          Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

          If it won't power up, check it in your luggage. Stuff indeed does fail and/or get broken.

          Problem solved.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

            "check it in your luggage"...

            What, so the throwers can swipe it? No thanks.

            Problem not solved.

          2. MartinB105

            Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

            "If it won't power up, check it in your luggage."

            I make a deliberate choice to NOT check delicate and expensive electronic devices in my luggage.

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

      "...(...PS2...) ..."

      Stuck at Heathrow Security without an NTSC TV, ...that also just happens to work on 240V/50Hz.

      Just to be extra safe, they should force you to get 24,000 points on Donkey Kong before letting the Wii pass through.

    3. Charles Manning

      Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

      They'll say that you don't need it on the flight so you better put it in the hold.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

        Then tell them it has lithium in it. That makes it ILLEGAL to put in the hold (due to spontaneous cumbustion risks) unless it's in a special package (which the airport will NOT have on hand).

  6. DiViDeD Silver badge

    Containing little but bolts and glue

    Fascinating. I never realised that bolts and glue were such a security risk.

    What with the 'remove all footwear, give us a DNA sample, even if you're not actually setting foot on our sacred soil, hand over all encryption keys' and the classic holdup for a former colleague when he was held at the airport for five hours (thus missing his internal connection) because the immigration monkey refused to believe there wasn't a merkin who could do the job he'd travelled there to do, this seems like just one more reason not to travel to, or even via the US.

    1. Harry the Bastard

      Re: Containing little but bolts and glue

      bolts and glue could be a test run to check if it's detected by security

      prior to sending the deluded nutter through with the one containing bolts and explosive

    2. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Containing little but bolts and glue

      because the immigration monkey refused to believe there wasn't a merkin who could do the job he'd travelled there to do

      This has always annoyed me with work trips to US. "Hey TSA monkey (apologies for monkeys...) ...since there is a visa stamped on the passport, immigration officials above your paygrade have already deemed that I have valid reasons to travel here"

      Would be easier on tourist visa...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Containing little but bolts and glue

        even on a tourist visa, don't bother going via there. Treating transit passengers like criminals and being subjected to an inquisition when you're just waiting for your change of flight. I always choose my transit flights to go elsewhere

      2. Peter 39

        Re: Containing little but bolts and glue

        This has always annoyed me with work trips to US. "Hey TSA monkey (apologies for monkeys...) ...since there is a visa stamped on the passport, immigration officials above your paygrade have already deemed that I have valid reasons to travel here"

        Would be easier on tourist visa...

        Why is it you think that it's any different at Heathrow?

        The "tourist visa" approach may seem tempting but is not without risk. I will leave it to you to balance the risk/reward but please be aware that if you run afoul of CBP then any future visits to the U.S. are likely to be painful, at best. If you're on B1/B2 then just be upfront about what you're doing and for how long. If it's not excessive then you should be fine (if not then please respond here)

  7. Robert E A Harvey
    Joke

    It's all a plot

    Given that we can back our phones up to the cloud, maybe they want us to leave our phone at home and buy another one when we get there. Security as a sales tool!

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: It's all a plot

      And every bomb will have to have a cell phone glued to it so you can get it through security. Even more sales there.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: It's all a plot

        "And every bomb will have to have a cell phone glued to it so you can get it through security. Even more sales there."

        There's a potential silly OTT comedy sketch, there. Guy going through security, security spot that there's a phone in his hand luggage. They ask him to take it out and switch it on. Out it comes, attached to some sticks of dynamite. He switches it on. Security guy looks at it and says "Okay, go on through."

    2. h4rm0ny
      Flame

      Re: It's all a plot

      Works for toothpaste, nail scissors, perfume, drinks... So why not try and make us re-buy new phones for each country?

      Honestly, this is why I hate travelling to the USA. Especially being questioned by some giant thug who thinks its his job to tower over me in the most threatening manner possible whilst questioning me about who I work for and where I'm staying.

      I avoid trips to the USA whenever possible. And that costs the USA more than it does me.

      1. ukgnome

        @ h4rm0ny

        Towering thug? Threatening manner?

        Not my experience at all, recently in LAX the first thing the chap said was "did you know spain is out of the cup?" this exacerbated me, as I am not a footy fan. Followed by, "you haven't said where you are staying" Once I had explained that I couldn't legitimately answer the question as my US lady friend had arranged the accommodation he just smiled, wrote with a sharpie on the form that I was staying at the airport and wished me a great time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ h4rm0ny

          "this exacerbated me"

          Honestly?

          /shakes head

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's all a plot

        "I avoid trips to the USA whenever possible. And that costs the USA more than it does me."

        They'll just raise the price by making it a "Take it or leave it" proposition, and leaving it may well also mean leaving your job with no alternatives available, meaning you'll make yourself unemployable in the name of your principles.

  8. RISC OS

    I wonder how they got this information?

    Maybe using the technology that snowden reported. I think snowden was right to let people know, but I would rather have all my mails logged and analysed than fly on a plane that somone may blow up.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: I wonder how they got this information?

      It's called "security theatre" for a reason.

      The TSA and others have to be seen to be doing something. All this is achieving is the removal of those who "may" have travelled to the US for tourism/work/whatever and adding to the pain of flying.

      The TSA is always trying to stop the last terrorist attack, it can only guess at the next.

      If the flight is suddenly terrorism proof, then the next best thing to do would be to simply destroy the airport. Not in an inept way like Glasgow. Airports are insecure land-side with thousands of people, all with a legitimate reason to carry massive suitcases.

      It serves no purpose. It's the same as me saying that the Tiger repellent I have on my desk here in the West Midlands is awesome, I've had it on for three years and there has not been one tiger related incident near my desk.

      Agreed, there must be some security, but there needs to be a balance. At the moment the terrorists have, essentially, won due to the way we spend so much money and time chasing shadows. Moreover some of this nonsense INCREASES the risk. I have to leave my bag unlocked if I travel to the US. How hard would it be for a nefarious baggage handler to pop a device, bag of cocaine etc into every bag passing through? When stopped by customs in the US and asked if anyone had interfered with my luggage my honest answer was "I have no idea, I have to leave it unlocked and out of my sight for hours. Anyone at start or destination could have put anything in there." Luckily nothing had been added, but the comment earned me a world of pain and a coincidental "SSSS" added to all my boarding cards after that.

      1. Wulfy

        Re: I wonder how they got this information?

        What?! Tigers here in the west midlands?!?! You think you could pass me some of that repellent bud? My office has a few monkeys around but a tiger is defiantly something to be worried about.

        time to start carrying a UPS round now for those non battery powered items....

        1. rhydian

          Re: I wonder how they got this information?

          "Tigers here in the west midlands?!?!"

          Depends which side of Kidderminster or Bewdley you live...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder how they got this information?

        >then the next best thing to do would be to simply destroy the airport

        I've said this before, the way to cause most disruption is a suicide bomber in the body scanner.

        However both this and any attack in the airport will not create the same sort of terror reaction that the thought of being blown out of the sky would. So in terms of terror it would not matter whether flights are in reality terror proof, sowing the seeds of doubt is sufficient. Leave an external HDD full of glue and bolts to be found in a suitable place and that's what you've got. Terror for virtually nothing.

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          Re: the way to cause most disruption is a suicide bomber in the body scanner.

          The Boys used to cause endless chaos in the 1970s with just a telephone call.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder how they got this information?

          Actually, I think it would.

          We have no choice but to be in that line. The lines at some airports are quite crowded with plenty of people that are already miffed at having to wait. An attack in this way would cause them to not just be unhappy about waiting but also actively fearful of those around them for many years to come.

          More to the point: there is no "fix" for this situation. They could move body scanners to the front doors of the airport, but that just moves the problem (and line of people) outside. You could set the lines such that only a few people at a time were within a 100 feet or so of the scanners, but, again, the line is the problem.

          Of course, the question here is really about what the TSA is trying to protect. If it's attempting to prevent an airplane from being used as a missile, then the real solution is just to seal off the pilot's area such that it is impossible to break into it during flight. If the thing to protect are the passengers, then all of this "security" stuff is a pile of BS. Either way you look at it they could go ahead and get rid of the security scanners as those aren't really doing anything on either front.

      3. g e

        Re: I wonder how they got this information?

        Any idea if that repellent works on the Robobadgers in Warwickshire?

        I've never seen one (yet, natch) though I'd feel safer with some good Robobadger Repellent to hand!

    2. plrndl

      Re: I wonder how they got this information?

      I'd rather have my freedom back, and run the risk of getting blown to smithereens. We're all going to die sometime, but I want to enjoy the time I have here.

      1. g e

        Re: I wonder how they got this information?

        You really think it's that likely that you're gonna get blown up?

        The terrorists have won, methinks.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder how they got this information? but I want to enjoy the time I have here.

        I actually find it amusing to walk through the scanner with my trousers round my ankles cos they've made me take my belt off and the poor sod with the wand makes me lift my arms in the air.

        But in all honesty I don’t find it worth going on short breaks that involve flying anymore when you spend more time in the airport than in the air.

        Fuckwits.

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: I wonder how they got this information?

      >>"but I would rather have all my mails logged and analysed than fly on a plane that somone may blow up."

      I would not. Same for a lot of other people. Even allowing that scanning all my emails and running word recognition software on my voice calls might help, I do not consider exchanging the certainty that the Government is monitoring me 24/7 for a tiny risk that a plane I'm on might be targeted, an acceptable exchange.

      Want to see how many people agree with me? Set up two air services - one with all the checks, shoes off, police interrogation... and one with just luggage scan and metal detector (basically anything that can be done in about 30 seconds). See which people prefer to travel on. Sadly that test will never happen but I think anyone who's ever worked in any area of computer security (and seen how much most people put convenience ahead of rigorous security) knows which service would be most popular. And I think anyone reading this who is honest with themself knows that too.

      I don't know where this "demand" for ever tighter security is coming from, but I don't think it's the public. Anyone who has done even just a GCSE in History knows that in the vast majority of cases, we the public have far more to fear from governments grown too powerful than we do from terrorists.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder how they got this information?

        People will choose the latter line until the planes there get blown up. Sorry, but the problem with airplane bombs is that they may be low incidence but high consequence. Mainly if you're in an airplane where a bomb blows up, physics says it's pretty much game over, whereas anywhere else you there's at least a fighting chance after the bomb goes off. That's why terrorists love airplanes; there's a sense of certainty and helplessness to it, and unless people are willing to forgo a 10-hour transoceanic flight and take several weeks by sea instead, we don't have much of an option.

        Frankly, I don't know if the very concept of an open society can last much longer. Some people literally want to destroy all humanity (including themselves). Open societies to them are inherently big fat targets; they get that way simply by existing; which means it's both unavoidable and by the law of averages impossible to dodge every existential threat that comes its way.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. h4rm0ny

          Re: I wonder how they got this information?

          >>"People will choose the latter line until the planes there get blown up."

          But that already happened. 9/11. And I would still choose lesser security. I believe most people would.

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how they got this information?

      And what about the small army of poorly paid cleaners, security and baggage handlers that routinely pass through all checks with impunity?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder how they got this information?

        You're saying they're not vetted thoroughly before being hired?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: I wonder how they got this information?

          You're saying they're not vetted thoroughly before being hired?

          Who's they? You mean cleaners and baggage handlers and the security head-the-balls who, at least in America, don't even get paid the minimum wage? Sure, they're subject to thorough vetting and regular checks…

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Maybe it would be a lot simpler...

    ...if we just banned all flights (and voyages) to and from the USA? Then there would be no risk of trrrrsts getting in to the USA, or blowing up aircraft en route, and the rest of the world could start thinking about implementing genuine, effective and simple security measures on other flights. TSA and DHS could be shut down and the money saved spent on Education. Also americans would have to stay at home and wouldn't have to be exposed to the awful reality that is the real world.

    A definite win-win.

    1. g e

      Re: Maybe it would be a lot simpler...

      Just ban the USA. "period"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maybe it would be a lot simpler...

        You forget the container nuke. Unless you want to ban ALL travel, land OR sea? And BTW, that means you can buy their natural gas.

      2. Pedigree-Pete
        Happy

        Re: Maybe it would be a lot simpler...

        Shame on you, a resident of Warwickshire too.

        "Just ban the USA "full-stop". TFTFY.

  10. MrNed
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder

    Is this because there's a threat of a bomb cunningly disguised as a phone/tablet/whatever? Or is it because a powered-up device can be hacked and snooped and have tracking software etc. installed on it, whereas a powered-down device (probably) can't?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I wonder

      You presume they need to install tracking software or hack it...

      Hint, they just wish it turned on. Then they get the key/data from it's own unique id. Everything is "on the cloud", or rather tracked via the ISPs/teleco operators anyhow. Then they known who, if it's your phone, you are. If it's not your phone, they still know where it has been.

      Not anon, because it would not make any difference. :P

      1. Number6

        Re: I wonder

        What happens if you've got it in flight mode? It's powered up OK.

        More to the point, I normally put my phone into flight mode at my home departure airport and leave it in that condition until I get back, in order to avoid roaming charges (there's no one I need to talk to that urgently when out of the country). So if I'm at a foreign airport and they insist I register it with the local network and I incur charges as a result, I guess the snowball has more chance in Hell than I would have asking for a refund.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: I wonder

          True. But that requires everyone to use flight mode. Plus it at least solves the presented problem of "is it batteries in the battery?"

  11. Colin_Welwyn

    I'm at Terminal 3 now flying to Chicago on American Airlines and I nor anyone else in my security lane had anything electrical checked this morning. They are still asking the silly questions like 'Who do you work for' & 'Why are you going to America' but that's a different story.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Do they still ask if you committed war crimes in 1939-45?

      Did anyone ever confess?

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        I'm assuming it's the usual "your arrested on the technicality". If they cannot arrest you for an actual crime, they can arrest you for lying about why you visited...

        "I came to see the family" when it was "I want to buy some cheap booze".

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      The checks are INCOMING, not OUTGOING. They're being made on flights TO the US.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The checks are INCOMING, not OUTGOING. They're being made on flights TO the US.

        You see, that's exactly the problem. We (aka the civilised world) need to know when someone LEAVES there, for illegal rendition, spying, installing some taps for the NSA; you know, the usual. I don't see why the rest of the world needs to provide data for passengers inbound, but the US is not obliged to reciprocate. That's simply wrong.

        1. Number6

          The UK appears to require a fair bit of data, based on flying there from Germany a while back.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          "You see, that's exactly the problem. We (aka the civilised world) need to know when someone LEAVES there, for illegal rendition, spying, installing some taps for the NSA; you know, the usual."

          Then check them as they come into YOUR country, if you're so anti-American. The sovereignty ball will be in YOUR court at that point.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well if you like to prove that battery operated device works madam..

    Just wait while me and my mates get our phones ready, and hold it up beside your face for scale yeah.

  13. Stratman

    Gel implant bras

    Now I have your attention, these 'figure enhancing' gel implant bras are the perfect medium for smuggling binary explosives.

    Problem is, only the good looking ones would be selected for a 'random' check. Guess where the booby prize would be hidden.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Gel implant bras

      I know a better solution, mentioned it years ago: the dildo bomb. A woman can smuggle two of them: perfect for a binary explosive, and since they're INSIDE the woman, nothing short of a full-on strip search would pick it up. And one huge final advantage: they're removable.

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: Gel implant bras

        A Modesty Blaise novel used this exact, erm, transportation mode. Not a bomb, but a small radio, etc.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they want to do it...

    They'll find a way. It's just smoke and mirrors to all the Maud Flanders in the U(SA/K) convinced that "someone" is doing "something".

    It's laughable... Leaving the UK to go on holiday, you go through the body scanners, get a free touch up, go through queues after queues, past 2 way mirrors to get through and on the plane - but at the other end coming back, the bloomin' flight attendant was checking the passports, then we have a few people having a quick scan & glance at the passport when you get back home.

    All backwards and borderline pointless...

  15. JeffTravis

    Queues

    Do you think they'll have device/OS specific queues? One look at the length of the Windows XP queue (I've turned it on, it always take this long) and the Win 8 upgrade packs at the airport Dixons will be flying off the shelves.

  16. Ironclad

    How much explosive can you fit in a mobile?

    vs how much explosive do you need to depressurise a plane?

    Does anybody know how viable such a device would be?

    And wouldn't sniffer dogs be a better bet for detecting this kind of thing?

    1. Number6

      Re: How much explosive can you fit in a mobile?

      If you do it at 30,000ft probably not much if you can get it close to the fuselage. It's only 2mm of aluminium alloy. Mythbusters did some tests - a depressurised aircraft needs a lot more explosive to cause critical damage, one that's pressurised needs very little because the pressure differential does most of the work once you start the airflow.

      When they did tests on the Comet airframe it was done in a huge water container on the basis that water doesn't store up all that energy in the same was as air when under pressure, so when the fuselage ruptured, it wasn't explosive decompression.

  17. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    Bomb making skills learnt how?

    Presumably these leet bomb 'packaging' skills that the US are now so worried about came about by examining US made 'fragrance free' anti-personnel land mines that were intended to be un-sniffable by mine detectors? What comes around goes around etc.

  18. Clive Galway

    What are they gonna do if it has no juice?

    Will they hold the device until you get back?

    What if it is a one-way ticket?

    Would you be offered a refund on your flight?

    Seems pretty unworkable to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are they gonna do if it has no juice?

      I think they've put up a basic cop-out: they'll confiscate it, you can't get it back, it's considered a lawful seizure against an existential threat, and no you can't sue us. You don't like it? Use the parcel service.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No big deal

    Authorities in numerous countries have done this for years and it's a basic minimum inspection that all security should do. It doesn't take a lot of effort to turn a phone or laptop on.

    1. Number6

      Re: No big deal

      My phone is usually on at security anyway.

  20. Martijn Otto

    What a lovely idea

    A fully charged laptop battery can explode with roughly the force of a hand grenade when short-circuited. Good to see the good ole US of A is doing their bit to help those pesky terrorists. It's just so embarrassing when you try to blow up an airplane and your battery turns out to be empty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a lovely idea

      A fully charged laptop battery can explode with roughly the force of a hand grenade when short-circuited. Good to see the good ole US of A is doing their bit to help those pesky terrorists.

      Yup. Dell batteries, anyone? :)

  21. Jim Bobble

    Hasn't this always been the case? I was yanked out of line for enhanced interrogation (or whatever they call it) at Manchester Airport back in 2005 and asked to remove my WinMo phone's (ahh, the days...) battery and then turn it on again, to show that it wasn't packed with explosives and actually worked as a phone. The slightly clueless security bloke missed my laptop, until I asked him if he'd like me to remove its battery and demonstrate it working. "Oh, yes, I suppose. Thank you".

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't someone please think about the IMSIs?

    They have been checking phones and laptops for explosives for years using both X-Rays old-fashioned physical inspections and none have gotten through as far as anyone is aware (The mystery of flight MH370 notwithstanding.) Personally I don't think this new regulation has anything to do with looking for phone-shaped bombs and everything to do with stealing the IMSIs from your phones and MAC addresses from the WIFI NIC from your laptop and tablets.

    Once they can force your devices to be on they just need to install the applicable monitoring systems at or near the baggage check. IMSI grabbing via "Stingrays" is a particularly powerful way to monitor the physical movement of everyone in the world who has a cell phone. Turn on your laptop or tablet and it's WIFI NIC will start scanning for networks, giving up it's unique MAC address. All you need then is a database of these numbers and your friendly, neighborhood national security service will know the instant you step foot in the airport and where you are going. Of course they already know the basics from your flight information, assuming you are a valid traveler with a valid passport. Hopefully bad people with fake or stolen passports whose IMSI and/or MAC data has already been obtained by security services would be flagged with this system. However note they can also use the IMSI of your phone to identify non-contract "burner" phones and flag the people carrying them as suspicious just by possessing one.

    The more troubling aspect is this stolen data would facilitate domestic monitoring systems to track the movements and mobile data activity of all foreigners from the moment they touch down in the USA and start roaming on USA data networks, regardless of whether they are already suspects of anything.

    The reason I'd imagine this is being done at foreign airports rather than upon arrival in the USA is, firstly, because they have the baggage check system as an wonderful excuse for doing this, and, secondly, because US laws have no restrictions of any kind on privacy violations carried out on foreign soil.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Won't someone please think about the IMSIs?

      You assume people won't bring their devices to the checkpoints in Airplane Mode, which turns off all wireless function. And if an airplane mode wasn't REALLY an airplane mode, some enterprising amateur with a Faraday Cage would've ratted on it by this time.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Won't someone please think about the IMSIs?

      Another Commentard posted a link to Pry-fi the other day : http://www.xda-developers.com/android/protect-your-privacy-on-your-mobile-device-with-pry-fi/

      I haven't had a chance to look into it properly but the quick scan I did of the page makes it look interesting, if it works it really should go viral. Thousands of phones declaring war on trackers would be funny.

      The only downside is the reduction in freebies if no-one can track anyone anymore, but then if we are all paying for the apps we want the prices will come down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Won't someone please think about the IMSIs?

        wow, I never realized that MAC address spoofing was the solution to mass interception. it's a good thing that's the only unique id on our mobile devices...

  23. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Meh

    So I guess...

    If your electronics are momentarily broken/ battery is dead, you have to express ship them before going through security?

  24. Swiss Anton

    Pointless

    I predict that the next aircraft to be destroyed will be taken out by an attack from the ground rather than by an on-board bomb.

    Actually it's already happened, but not to an aircraft carrying Yanks. (BBC News-Military plane shot down in Luhansk ). Let hope the terrorists don't read the beeb's news site, or for that matter wikipedia (Man portable air-defence systems) or even el-reg (Alabama quadchopper).

    Luckily smuggling a man portable air defence system into Europe is too difficult for the terrorists to try, so we are probably safe. Wait, isn't Ukraine already in Europe? Feck!

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Pointless

      I predict that the next aircraft to be destroyed will be taken out by an attack from the ground rather than by an on-board bomb.

      Actually it's already happened,

      ...yes, almost exactly 26 years ago. (USS Vincennes)

  25. Bucky 2

    Nothing to do with Terrorism

    First off, the 9/11 thing happened with planes coming out of Boston, not outside the US.

    Also, they stopped asking me to turn on my laptop years ago. I'm guessing because the x-ray is sufficient to inspect the contents of my laptop without turning it on.

    This HAS to be about garden-variety espionage.

  26. ma1010 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    I quit it all years ago

    I quit flying when they started all this TSA insanity. Fortunately, there's no place I need to get to in all the much of a hurry, and I never did like dealing with reincarnated SS prison camp guards.

  27. Richard Altmann

    TSA

    Who the hell wants to go Nazi America? I frequently have words with my boss ´cause he wants to send me there for conferences and what not. "I will Not!" Pratchett/Baxter readers will know what i mean.

  28. Richard Altmann

    Airplanes

    are not terrorist targets. Entebbe, Nairobi, Djibouti, Addis Ababa, Abuja ... one could walk through the "checks" with whatever one likes. And that´s just a few airports i know of myself. 9/11 was different, they turned the planes into weapons. Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, Istanbul ... what excellent targets. But it´s not going to happen. With the Twin Tower attacks AQ got what they want. "Mission Accomplished". The "Free World" no longer exists. Treeelions spent on useless security measures and 90% of the worlds population turned into per se suspects of whatever. A genius strike, one has to addmit. So give me back my shaving foam and shower gel.

  29. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Linux

    They want to check the boot screen. And make sure none of you lousy extremists running Linux get on board.

  30. Number6
    Big Brother

    Last October I took a bare hard disk drive through Heathrow security and they had me extract it from my luggage to dust it down for explosives. Earlier this year, again carrying a bare hard drive, I just took it out of the bag and put it in the tray with my laptop. That went through with no problems.

    Sounds like an ideal way for them to slurp data for free - if you can't power up the drive yourself, they can offer to connect it to their system, which would probably read as much as it could during the test period.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. terror "threat"

    Just powering it up isn't enough, if the battery is replaced with one from say a digital picture frame then this frees up a big chunk of the case.

    The biggest concern isn't so much phones but items like tablet PCs as a lot of the cheaper ones can have quite a lot of free space inside the casing if the glued in battery is taken out and replaced.

    Anyone buying a lot of small LiPo batteries may be up to something and should be added to the terrorism watchlist just in case, same with people buying broken phones and/or tablet PCs in bulk.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Re. terror "threat"

      Anyone buying a lot of batteries should be put on a list. Because they either:

      1) Bought a horrid toy for the kids that uses too many batteries

      or

      2) Are too thick to realise rechargeables exist!

  32. Cipher
    Big Brother

    How long before...

    ...we hear: "Just a quick scan of your data and you'll be on your way."

    Oh, wait, we won't hear that, they'll just do it.

  33. Ben Trabetere

    Every time I hear of a 'prove it works' requirement I have a fond chuckle remembering the social experiment Penn Jillette proposed in his PC Computing column. He wondered what would happen if someone inserted a few lines in the autoexec.bat that would display something on the lines of....

    Arming, please wait.....

    Armed.

    10

    9

    8, etc.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Probably the same thing as the guy who happens to call out to his friend Jack at the other end of the plane. They'd rather wax cautious in case it's the real thing, and there's always the risk the bad guys will employ Cry Wolf Syndrome to hide a real one eventually.

  34. cortland
    Coat

    Banned earplugs, woman

    Could not be turned on, says TSA inspector...

    "Neither can my wife," says passenger, as woman refused entry.

  35. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

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