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US government report examines insider threat to US airports

The US Homeland Security Committee has released a new report titled America’s Airports: The Threat From Within, which discusses the escalation of insider threats to the aviation sector and potential measures that can be taken to reduce risk.

According to the report, approximately 900,000 people work across 450 federally controlled airports in the USA, and many of these workers are able to bypass traditional screening requirements undertaken by passengers.

The Security Committee states that while the majority of workers act responsibly, there are others that abuse their position. The report cites examples such as an attempt to detonate a bomb at an airport; cases of gun and drug smuggling; an expressed willingness to smuggle explosives; as well as employees who became involved in terrorist activities overseas.

As a result, the Security Committee goes on to suggest nine measures to improve access controls and employee screening, devised from hearings, oversight inquiries, site visits and roundtable discussions with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the wider aviation community.

The recommendations include:
1) Providing better education to aviation workers on their role in mitigating insider threats and securing access to sensitive areas of airports;
2) Reassessing credentialing practices to ensure that individuals with access to secure and sterile areas of airports are held to stringent standards and are regularly reassessed;
3) That airports and air carriers should examine the costs and feasibility of expanding the physical screening of employees;
4) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and airports should work to identify advanced technologies for securing employee access and work to further reduce the number of employee access points;
5) The TSA should implement the FBI’s RapBack Service for all credentialed aviation worker populations in order to rapidly detect insider threats and leverage greater government resources;
6) The TSA should identify airports where the relationship between the agency and its stakeholders is in need of improvement;
7) The TSA should increase covert testing of Playbook operations at airports across the USA, to measure current levels of security effectiveness and provide recommendations to airports and air carriers on how security can be improved. Testing results should be shared with airport operators and air carriers;
8) The TSA should strategically target its use of employee screening operations;
9) The DHS should be the lead interagency coordinator on insider threats at airports across the USA.

Commenting on the findings, Kevin Gramer, vice president at security technology developer Digital Barriers, said, “The US aviation system is interconnected, so it goes without saying that the USA is only as secure as its least secure airport. As the report suggests, randomization and unpredictability are key when selecting a people screening technology to defend against the insider threat, as they present less of an opportunity for malicious actors to “work around” them.

“At Digital Barriers we’ve developed a technology called ThruVis which has been found to be 100% successful in independent government testing in identifying anyone wearing a bomb vest or carrying concealed weapons. In addition, ThruVis can detect other smuggled items made of metal, plastic, ceramic, powders or liquids.

“We’re already working with the TSA in mass transit environments and we believe ThruVis is a big part of the solution for alleviating insider threats in all public transit venues.”

To read a copy of the full report, click here.

Story by Dan Symonds

February 16, 2017






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