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Smartphone Apps Pose New Security Threat: Report

Aiming to skip the long check-in counter lines, many airline passengers these days print their boarding passes ahead of time. Unfortunately, this technology could pose a security threat.

Flyers who are part of the TSA’s PreCheck program are eligible to get lighter and faster screenings at certain airports. This means they sometimes get perks like leaving their shoes on, keeping their 3-1-1 liquids inside carry-ons, and going through separate security lanes.

One thing that helps the PreCheck program to work safely, is that PreCheck flyers are randomly selected to go through regular security checks, and the flyers do not know ahead of time if they will be able to pass through with only the lighter screening. Read more about the PreCheck program (including how to apply, here).

However, new smartphone apps allow passengers to scan their pre-printed boarding passes up to 24 hours before a flight, and the barcode will reveal if the flyer has been selected for extra screening or not. Chris Soghoian, a security analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union tells USA Today why this is a problem: “If people can verify their PreCheck status at home 24 hours before the flight, the randomness is gone. The randomness needs to occur the moment you are in line, when it’s too late to swap bags with your colleague or it’s too late to throw something in the trash.”

The TSA responded with a statement saying, “We continue to explore and implement additional mitigation measures to prevent the manipulation of boarding passes and are working with the airlines to enhance existing security systems, programs and methods to prevent illegal tampering.”

Are you concerned about this? Tell us in the comments.

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