Tougher Airport Security Targets Tech

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Don’t fear the glove! Passengers travelling to the United States can expect tougher security checks on their tech

American transport officials are demanding tougher security checks of passengers’ technology, before they are cleared to fly to the United States.

The development comes in the wake of increasing concern about so-called undetectable bombs planted within the human body or mobile devices.

Charge Up People

The US Transport Security Administration (TSA) issued the order on Sunday. It came after the US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson last week directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States.

“As the travelling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers,” said the TSA in a statement. “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveller may also undergo additional screening.”

Gatwick Airport“TSA will continue to adjust security measures to ensure that travellers are guaranteed the highest levels of aviation security conducted as conveniently as possible,” it said.

Travellers at London Heathrow could therefore face more delays getting through their initial security checks, whether they are travelling to the US or not. This is because security checks at Heathrow are carried out on ALL passengers (irrespective of destination) as they enter the departure area.

Alternatively, the US authorities could implement another security check on US-bound flights, as travellers near their individual departure gates.

Whatever the actual security response from officials is, travellers to the United States should make sure their devices have enough power to show they are working. Thus passengers best ensure the device is as fully charged as possible.

Indeed, Heathrow has just issued advice on its website for travellers going to the United States, concerning their electronic devices.

“If you are flying to the US please make sure any of your electronic devices are charged before you travel,” said Heathrow airport. “If your device does not switch on you may not be allowed to bring it onto the aircraft.”

Apple, Samsung targeted?

Reuters quoted security officials as saying that mobile phones made by Apple and Samsung are being singled out for extra security checks (another reason to own a Windows Phone?).

And the BBC said that it understands that passengers flying to the US will be advised to remove relevant chargers from their hold luggage at check-in, so that they can top up carried-on gadgets if necessary. Alternatively, they can opt to place any powered-down kit in their stowed luggage.

The US order is in response to a terror threat received by US and British officials. Details of this threat remain sketchy at the moment, but security analysts have speculated it could be in response to intelligence that Islamic militants in Syria and Yemen are developing bombs that could evade existing airport security measures.

American officials are not linking the security changes to any specific intelligence, but insist there is a “credible” threat.

The UK, France and Germany have all said they would comply with the American demands. The British government has also revised its rules to state that if a “device doesn’t switch on, you won’t be allowed to bring it on to the aircraft”.

Are you a security expert? Try our quiz!

Read also :