In a follow-up study after the release of a YouTube video in 2012 by journalist Johnathan Corbett about how easy it is to slip metal past the Rapiscan X-ray machines found in airports across the country, researchers wanted to find out for themselves just how easy it was to fool these machines.
The verdict: shamefully easy.
These machines that cost hundreds of thousands each and billions a year to maintain countrywide are less reliable than metal detectors. And certainly with much less privacy and more radiation than the old metal detectors.
Researchers from the University of California, John Hopkins and the University of Michigan got their hands on a Rapiscan Secure 1000 and decided to test just how much they could get away with. It turns out, quite a lot.
And not only did they find that Corbett’s weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone’s spine, installing malware on the scanner’s console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person’s body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine’s images.
These Rapiscan Secure 1000 machines haven't been used in airports since last year, in favor of the more privacy-conscious millimeter wave scanners. But the not-so-startling revelation about these Rapsicans demonstrates just how woefully inept the security measures at U.S. airports really are.