Two tools used by the TSA to protect flights and passengers have dangerous security flaws. Security researcher Billy Rios found the problems and shared the details at Black Hat last Wednesday. This is scary stuff because it could help terrorists sneak weapons onto planes.
The Morpho Detection Itemiser 3 trace-explosives and residue system and the Kronos 4500 time clock system both have major issues. Both come with default backdoor passwords from the manufacturers. That makes them vulnerable because if a hacker figures out the default password, it's no longer safe.
Rios says the Itemiser he tested also came with a backdoor password. Exploiting that, he was able to alter the configuration of the Itemiser system, which could allow an attacker to prevent the system from detecting explosive residue, for example.
"Once you have access to the software, it's game over," he says.
If hackers crack the password, they could change the machines to stop detecting bomb residue. Morpho says the TSA now uses an upgraded Inemiser DX, but Rios said it could still have backdoor password problems.
TSA employees use the Kronos to clock in and out for work, but Rios found 6,000 of these systems are accessible by the public on the Internet. If hackers crack the hardcoded password, they could access the TSA network. Two of the 6,000 vulnerable Kronos systems were at U.S. airports. One is at San Francisco International Airport, but it's offline now. The other is still being used at an undisclosed airport.
Waiting in the long TSA lines can be frustrating, but the best thing you can do is cooperate with the agency to make sure you stay safe on flights. Learn about one of the TSA's newest screening rules here.