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Researcher Evan Booth: How To Weaponize Tax-Free Airport Goods 288

Posted by timothy
from the tech-crew-at-the-security-theater dept.
New submitter MickeyF71 writes "At the Hack in the Box security conference security expert Evan Booth shares the results of his two year research on the effectiveness of airport security. He demonstrates how easy it is to produce lethal weapons from goods easily bought from the tax-free section at most airports." Google's translation of the Dutch in that link isn't ideal. For those who prefer English to Dutch, Booth's presentation at CarolinaCon 2013 (YouTube video) may be a better bet.
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Researcher Evan Booth: How To Weaponize Tax-Free Airport Goods

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  • First Post (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @10:40AM (#43384011)

    I'll be reading TFA while standing in the TSA security line at the airport.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 07, 2013 @10:45AM (#43384045)

    Go into any duty free shop and make a bee line to the liquor section. There's something wonderfully flammable stuff there.

    Although, for some of those Scotches, if a terrorist were to use them, you'd see Fark headlines like: "The Horror! 30 year old Scotch murdered in terrorist act! A plane and people died too."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's what I was thinking. Some vodka, a lighter, a handkerchief...

    • That would certainly be the Fark headline.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by gweihir (88907)

      Indeed. I have been thinking this since 9/11. The TSA was an obvious scan right from the beginning,

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Go into any duty free shop and make a bee line to the liquor section. There's something wonderfully flammable stuff there.

      Booze is actually very difficult to light, you really have to heat it up before you can light it. Go try it if you don't believe me...

      Hint: Buy a travel steam iron in the shop and head for the baby changing room to heat your bottle vodka for ten minutes before boarding.

      • It depends on the booze also. Some booze is pretty flammable, but honestly I doubt they sell it in large quantities in an airport, maybe at a semi decent bar if your lucky to find a shot of it. But some booze will light if sprayed from your mouth on a flame, the flame is usually produced by cloth on a stick soaked in said booze already ignited at the appropriate temperatures for ignition. Ive seen it in person.

        It wouldn't make an effective weapon though, theres better options. Maybe moderately useful as a d

    • by msauve (701917)
      Stay back! I have a bottle of booze, and I know how to use it.
  • by fermion (181285) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @10:57AM (#43384103) Homepage Journal
    Is that Dutch looks like german, in which everything seems angry. The web page seemed very very angry about my lack of cookies. I never knew a web page could look so angry.

    As far as the article, this is not surprising given that security theater dominates our security policy. Look at school shootings. Evidently from what I have read, professors do not have the ability to lock many university classrooms, so they have to barricade of sacrifice themselves. I read this week that the police are now recommending that we take defensive action when someone tries to shoot us. What were school doing before, opening all the doors and lining the kids in the hallways to be executing? At school the policy is to lock doors, hide, and stay away from windows when a attack is announced. Which is to be done before the administration sacrifices themselves. Good defensive positions saves lives.

    Of course the answer is always more guns, which is really going to some good when a truck full of claymores and fertilizer is driven into a school courtyard, or when some explodes their group 1 element on the plane.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Evidently from what I have read, professors do not have the ability to lock many university classrooms, so they have to barricade of sacrifice themselves.

      This is being changed after the Virginia Tech shootings. Where faculty was unable to lock classroom doors, the shooter was able to enter. Where students were taken to lockable offices, they survived. Classroom door locks are now being added to many schools.

      I don't know why they were ever removed. Back in my day, classrooms not in use were locked as a matter of policy (when no staff was present). Otherwise, students could enter and utilize them for 'unsanctioned' activities. I have many interesting stories

      • I don't know why they were ever removed. Back in my day, classrooms not in use were locked as a matter of policy (when no staff was present). Otherwise, students could enter and utilize them for 'unsanctioned' activities. I have many interesting stories from my high scool music department practice rooms.

        I had a private smoking lounge in the maintenance space above ours. (Wonder if anyone ever found the bong I think I left up there.) I was in practically every musical group the school had, and so received a key that just so happened to open *that* lock, too, my sophomore year... :)

        Nobody ever guessed how I managed never to get busted in the restrooms or trying to sneak out to the far parking lot. Since I wasn't supposed to tell any of the other students that I had what turned out to be a master key to every

        • I don't know why they were ever removed. Back in my day, classrooms not in use were locked as a matter of policy (when no staff was present). Otherwise, students could enter and utilize them for 'unsanctioned' activities. I have many interesting stories from my high scool music department practice rooms.

          I had a private smoking lounge in the maintenance space above ours. (Wonder if anyone ever found the bong I think I left up there.) I was in practically every musical group the school had, and so received a key that just so happened to open *that* lock, too, my sophomore year... :)

          Nobody ever guessed how I managed never to get busted in the restrooms or trying to sneak out to the far parking lot. Since I wasn't supposed to tell any of the other students that I had what turned out to be a master key to every room and office in the whole music wing... I of course abided by the conditions under which I'd been given the key, and didn't tell a soul!

          No worries, slashdot readers do not have souls.

  • Over thinking it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:09AM (#43384159)

    That guy is over thinking it. A wine bottle and a roll of duct tape can be used to make a good knife - and on international flights they serve wine in glass bottles. Credit cards can have their edges honed to the point of being as sharp as box cutters.

    About the only thing worthwhile is using a remote controlled toy to trigger something.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by houghi (78078)

      My grandfather sharpened the edges of coins, so they could put them between their fingers when fighting.
      Bar fights are done without the duct tape. Just use any glass or bottle and break the end while holding it.

      Look at the average documentary about prisons and you will know that anything can be made into a weapon.

      And if you are a danger with a nail clipper, you are a danger without it.

      • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @01:40PM (#43384893)

        Bar fights are done without the duct tape. Just use any glass or bottle and break the end while holding it.

        That's a good way to end up with a handful of blood and broken glass. It's not easy to break the end off of a bottle without breaking the whole bottle. Amateur bottle fighters are little more than business for surgeons. There's a very good reason for the duct tape.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          That, and the bottle unbroken is a good weapon. A solid hit on a head would be fatal (assuming wine bottle, not beer). And if it breaks on someone's head, then you have the broken bottle you were aiming for anyway.
    • Be prepared to find your name on a no-fly list for no real reason. You clearly are a problem to national security. You can think.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:12AM (#43384183)

    Who wants to bet that the ultimate outcome of this talk becoming known to the public at large will be to close duty-free stores at international airports? Frankly, while I agree that airport security as it exists is basically theater which provides little-to-no meaningful increase in actual safety, I sort of feel like pointing out what you can do with items you're allowed to purchase on the "secure side of the fence" as it were, is akin to the people who point out that more murders are perpetrated with hand guns than assault rifles: they think they're making a logical point, but all they're doing is creating a causus belli for their opponents to expand their reach to target handguns, too -- NOT providing a rational argument for passing over banning assault weapons.

    On the other hand, as a security industry professional, I'm naturally inclined to find things like this kind of cool. But seriously, I don't think anything good will come from this from a policy standpoint.

    • by Imagix (695350) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:22AM (#43384225)
      True story: Passing security, my wife had her nail clippers confiscated. As soon as we cleared security, we walked into one of the shops and bought another pair of nail clippers. What was the point of seizing them at security? Equally true story: we bought water in the security area in our originating airport. Transferred planes in London, and they seized the water. BTW: do they somehow scan all of the merchandise that was brought into the secured area, like the bottled water that you can't bring across security?
      • by turkeyfeathers (843622) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:28AM (#43384255)
        The replacement clippers you bought in the shop were made of approved inert metal. The ones you tried to smuggle on the aircraft could well have been made of plutonium. You and a few of your terrorist buddies put your plutonium nail clippers together and... BOOM! So you see, the policy was effective. Now please report to Guantanamo Bay.
        • Plutonium is a strange metal. It has 6 allotropes and is denser when melted than when solid, it is brittle and doesn't conduct heat or electricity. You take this horrid, unworkable metal that an experienced machinist or blacksmith would have trouble making a simple screwdriver or chisel out of and have to make a perfect, hollow, evacuated sphere out of it, surround it with precision trinitrotoluene shaped charges with multiple detonation points and then boom.
          • No, you don't evacuate it. You fill the sphere with hydrogen. That will give you much more bang for your buck.
        • That would be the heaviest nail clippers ever.
      • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @12:07PM (#43384441) Journal

        What was the point of seizing them at security?

        Aside from the obvious security theater, they also sell [cnn.com] the items [wsj.com].

      • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @12:10PM (#43384449)

        What was the point of seizing them at security?

        To make you buy from the duty free store. The stores were losing money, and needed an influx of forced shoppers so that the airports could increase rent fees. I'll bet most of the confiscation rules were suggested by airports and not airlines or security professionals.

      • by Mitreya (579078)

        BTW: do they somehow scan all of the merchandise that was brought into the secured area, like the bottled water that you can't bring across security?

        No! That's the best part. As I am forced to throw away my water-bottle, I see a random worker bring in a palette of water bottles and go in without so much as a scan (they just open the door).

        I am almost certain the airport vendors lobbied for that particular rule. Water/soda prices have almost doubled in the last few years.

    • by MLCT (1148749) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:32AM (#43384271)
      That won't happen, because ultimately airports are only profitable as they are run as giant shops. Antiquated rules on the requirements for how long people need to be there before the flight are maintained to ensure there is a large number of trapped people sitting about who want to buy food/drink and who get bored or are addicted anyway to buying things they don't really need in shops.

      Ultimately our security means little compared to the ability of the shops to sell "things" - hence the fact that we can still buy such things in the departures lounge even though it is clearly a security risk. The money they make (and thus the rent the pay to the airport) matters more than absolute security. Indeed some of the shops were no doubt delighted when the 100 ml rule came in, as now they can sell us elementary things like a bottle of water that we are not allowed to take through security.
      • Uhm, no. (Score:5, Informative)

        by raehl (609729) <raehl311@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday April 07, 2013 @12:23PM (#43384533) Homepage

        Antiquated rules on the requirements for how long people need to be there before the flight are maintained to ensure there is a large number of trapped people sitting about who want to buy food/drink and who get bored or are addicted anyway to buying things they don't really need in shops.

        There are three sets of rules about when you need to be at the airport:

        - Check-in time: Usually 30 minutes. This cutoff is to both give you time to get through security and the airline time to put other people in your seat if you don't show. But, since you can check in online anytime within 24 hours of your flight, this doesn't really put any requirement on you as to when you have to be at the airport.
        - Back Check Time: Usually the same as the check-in time, and usually 30 minutes, although at some airports it's more. This is to make sure that the airline has time to get your bag to the plane and loaded on it. 30 minutes is pretty reasonable here (and the airports where it's longer, like Las Vegas, there's a reason.)
        - At The Gate time: 15 or 30 minutes prior to departure, depending on whether you're doing domestic or international departure. As a practical matter though, this is really "before they are done boarding the plane". If it's 10 minutes to departure and they've still got a line of people getting on the plane, they won't know you're not there. But if it's 25 minutes before departure on an international flight and you're not on the plane and they are done boarding, they're going to pull your bags from the plane.

        Why 30 for international but only 15 for domestic? Because the airlines are not required to fly your bags on the same plane as you domestically, but they are required to do so internationally, so they need the extra 15 minutes to get bags off the plane.

        So, yes, there are rules about when you have to be at the airport and at the gate. But they have nothing to do with getting people to shop.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        And that was a reaction to the security. I remember as a child going up to the gate to meet incoming passengers. Yes, it was trivial to get to a gate with no boarding pass. The airports complained when the rules precluded non-passengers from going to the gate. Airports in other countries still let you go to the gate if not traveling. I've been to some that looked like malls more than airports. No idea if the locals went there.
      • by chrismcb (983081)

        That won't happen, because ultimately airports are only profitable as they are run as giant shops. Antiquated rules on the requirements for how long people need to be there before the flight are maintained to ensure there is a large number of trapped people sitting about who want to buy food/drink and who get bored or are addicted anyway to buying things they don't really need in shops.

        Yeah, the airport shops like having people there, but you know what? They don't need "antiquated rules" to force people to come early. You know what would make them even MORE money, get rid of the stupid security checkpoint. BOOM instant customer increase as non passengers would be allowed in the airport.
        They already have enough people due to lay overs, and people wanting to come earlier. Throw in non passengers who are waiting for arrivals, or hanging out until departure...
        Some of train stations in Eur

    • Although I can imagine certain items being banned or screened more careful, I'd suspect that the lobbying of airports / airlines will protect the duty free shops from significant changes. Similarly, I've always suspected that the restrictions on liquids would have been lifted quickly if they were a financial pain (rather than a financial benefit) to the airports / airlines / shops.

      Just my opinion, though, it's not like there's (as far as I'm aware!) particularly good insight available into how and what the

  • in the hands of an expert, a toothpick can be a weapon.. sheesh..
  • Why work so hard? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by putaro (235078) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:21AM (#43384221) Journal

    While cute, this is really overthinking the problem.

    If you want to kill lots of people in an aviation related way, send a suicide bomber to the security checkpoint at Thanksgiving.

    If you want to get weapons onto the plane, infiltrate someone into the cleaning staff or maybe the caterers. There are lots of people and vehicles who enter the airport without being rigorously searched. Have them leave a weapon for you in the airplane's bathroom or taped under your seat.

  • Rubbish weapons (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Attila the Bun (952109) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:27AM (#43384249)

    The weapons in the photos look scary, but I bet they'd be really rubbish in real life. For example, the club is made from a rolled up magazine and some Liberty statuettes. It is small, not very heavy, not very sharp, and would probably fall apart if it was used.

    Really any of these weapons is insignificant compared to what an fit but unarmed human can do. And that's why aeroplanes are safe these days: any hijacker will have to take on a hundred or more strong and highly motivated passengers.

    • The weapons in the photos look scary, but I bet they'd be really rubbish in real life. For example, the club is made from a rolled up magazine and some Liberty statuettes. It is small, not very heavy, not very sharp, and would probably fall apart if it was used.

      Really any of these weapons is insignificant compared to what an fit but unarmed human can do. And that's why aeroplanes are safe these days: any hijacker will have to take on a hundred or more strong and highly motivated passengers.

      +1. The rules have changed - it used to be "submit, avoid confrontation and eventually the hijackers will release you; even if it is after a prolonged period of time." Now it is "Kill the bastards before they can kill you." Whenever I fly I take note of what I can use to protect myself - whether it is my very sharp point all metal pen, my all metal laptop, or the power cord.

    • Re:Rubbish weapons (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bogtha (906264) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @01:23PM (#43384809)

      The weapons in the photos look scary, but I bet they'd be really rubbish in real life. For example, the club is made from a rolled up magazine and some Liberty statuettes. It is small, not very heavy, not very sharp, and would probably fall apart if it was used.

      You'd be surprised at how effective seemingly benign things like this are. It sounds akin to a Milwall brick [wikipedia.org].

    • Yah, a club made from stale airport sandwiches would have been better.
  • This is one of the reasons airport security has bugged me so much - I've been inconvenienced over trivial things that don't really matter to security, whilst equivalent or greater threats just go unmentioned. I once had a cone spanner confiscated. That's a very small, thin spanner, suitable for adjusting bicycle bearings - and very little else - I'd lost it at the bottom of my bag and hadn't realised it was there (though I had flown the outbound leg successfully without security picking up on it!).

    It was

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @11:52AM (#43384357)
    Anyone who takes a self defense class (especially women's self defense) will learn how to "weaponize" ordinary objects that we all have at hand every day. Umbrellas and CDs/DVDs make vicious weapons when broken.
    "That's my purse! I don't know you!" -Bobby Hill
  • This is why we can't have nice things.

  • Hard to believe that anything will change. After all, the threat of terrorism was out there and well-known prior to 9/11, but the airlines still shirked all defensive/offensive tactics (even basics like strengthened cockpit doors) in the name of profit - and they got away with it because they liberally dispensed cash to their lobbyists.

    I daresay no one will argue an assertion that the liquor industry, as one example of an airport retailer, likewise has a significant lobbying presence in Washington, D.C...
  • by fondacio (835785) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @12:02PM (#43384421)

    Researcher builds bomb out of articles from airport shops

    To demonstrate the futility of current airport security, next week a security expert will demonstrate a remotely controllable bomb. All the materials were bought at the airport once past security.

    The detonation mechanism will be presented at security conference Hack in the Box in Amsterdam. It is the result of two years of research by security expert Evan Booth.

    “There are all kinds of things we cannot take with us and security checks for those. But it turns out that this doesn’t make much sense,” says Booth.

    The detonation mechanism is the result of more than two years of research into deficient security at airports and available materials which are sold the in stores which are located ait airports behind customs.

    Drone

    To build the mechanism, Booth has used a Zippo lighter, disposable lighters, adhesive tape, dental floss and a remote controlled drone. “Which can be opreated with a mobile phone through a wireless network”, claims Booth.

    He used the engine from the drone to operate the zippo lighter. With disposable lighters, it is possible subsequently to create a blowtorch. By doing this, it would be possible to cause a fire, but at the conference Booth will present a more developed concept which even enables the detonation of a bomb.

    Simple

    “The trick is to prove that you can have dangerous weapons on board without carrying any forbidden items with you”, Booth has stated to NU.nl.

    Apart from a bomb, Booth also managed without much effort to create a bow and arrow out of items he had bought in a shop at an airport. For this, he used an umbrella, a hairdryer, socks, a leather belt and condoms. He did not want to further develop things were too obvious, such as using a lighter and deodorant as an alternative gas burner.

    Also remarkable is a club he created out of a souvenir, some magazines, dental floss, a leather belt and adhesive tape. During a test, this club turned out to be so solid that a single strike sufficed to break a coconut into several pieces.

    Profiling

    “Airport security has not been done well for a while now. What annoys me, is that we spend a lot of money on it and, for example, violate people’s privacy with body scanners. In the meantime, it turns out it doesn’t work well”, explains Booth.

    “It is a difficult problem, but I don’t know if this security makes any sense at all. I believe more in good intelligence and preventing the wrong people from coming to the airport.”

    To pre-empt problems with authorities, Booth has contacted the responsible government agencies in the United States in February. “I have offered to demonstrate my research and provide explanations, but I haven’t received any response. In the meantime, I have continued my research.”

    • Since when can you buy lighters in airports?

      And I wouldn't count making a bow and arrow as being successful at getting a (useful) weapon on a plane. A bow and arrow is a virtually useless device in the close-quarters of an aircraft.

  • Did anyone honestly believe it was the opposite?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... a more powerful weapon. Anyone with a basic knowledge of physics and turn anything into a powerful weapon, including their own body. Anyone with a knowledge of chemistry of physics is more capable of making use of the things that they find around them. Anyone with a knowledge of psychology or security is better able to manipulate the mechanisms that are supposed to keep us safe. And the list could go on.

  • Next headline (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @12:38PM (#43384617) Homepage Journal

    Next headline will read:

    TSA: How To Eliminate Researcher Evan Booth While Pretending To Be In Line With The Constitution

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @12:51PM (#43384669)

    This ought to teach us just how disorganized and scarce these "Al Quaeda" suicidal terrorists are. If there were that many of them, they'd have figured out how to make airplane assault weapons long before this guy's ideas made it into print.

    We are being sold a bill of goods by contractors who want the government to buy their overpriced "anti-terrorist" product-of-the-month.

    Every damn politician is now afraid of being perceived as "soft on terrorism," and we now have an Antiterrorism Industry intent on perpetuating itself.

    This is getting REALLY stupid . . . almost as stupid as the internet bubble.

  • by Fuzzums (250400)

    Just at the moment they were relaxing the regulations requiring mothers to drink their own milk and fathers to drink their urine...

  • by bdwoolman (561635) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @05:34PM (#43386213) Homepage

    As evidenced by TSA's recent and uncharacteristically sensible decision to ignore pen knives and other little sharps the agency has reaffirmed that they only care about stuff that can down the aircraft. No one can hijack any more by threatening the life of another passenger or crew member because since 9/11 the response to such threats has shifted from compliance to defiance. Armed with a bow and arrow made from an "umbrella, hair dryer, socks, a leather belt and condoms." a would-be attacker would receive a hearty laugh and a face full of mace. Emergency landing to treat passenger wounded by umbrella shaft? Yes.

    I dare you to try to visualize the weapon in question and keep a straight face.

    Joking aside, a determined group of attackers could create a lot of chaos with or without crap bought in duty free. In the right hands even a pair of eyeglasses is lethal. Godfather III anyone? But with the flight deck firmly locked the bird is probably safe.

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