About once a year, like clockwork, the TSA does a huge favor to technology and security writers around the world. This favor is accomplished by shooting itself in the foot.
This year’s bleeding foot-wound is keys — luggage keys to be precise. For a long time, the TSA has promoted special luggage locks. The appeal is that the TSA holds a set of master keys for its locks, so they might more conveniently search your luggage.
Late in 2014, the TSA allowed reporters from The Washington Post to photograph and publish a photo of its master keys. Whoops. See, any locksmith would be able to replicate any key, simply by using a photo reference. In order to make things even easier, someone recently went and posted 3D models of the keys up on GitHub. Now, anyone with access to a 3D printer can be up and stealing peoples’ luggage in no time.
Of course, TSA locks — and all luggage locks, really — are basically useless to begin with. You can pick them with a paperclip, a pen cap, a bobby pin, or any number of innocuous tools. Basically, if anyone competent were trying to break into your suitcase, the availability of a 3D printed master key might make their jobs about half a smidgen easier.
No, the real meat of the story is how quickly the TSA turned around on the efficacy of their product. According to TSA spokesman Mike England, “These consumer products are ‘peace of mind’ devices, not part of TSA’s aviation security regime.”
Excuse me, the TSA, but your entire agency is a ‘peace of mind’ device, and a shitty one at that. Your pornoscanners that didn’t detect bombs but did give people unspecified amounts of radiation? Peace of mind devices. Random screenings? Intrusive pat-downs? Banning liquids? All of them are techniques that are thoroughly useless in preventing acts of terror, but may have the effect of convincing easily-misled people into believing that they are safer. Well, at least we all know now that the locks are pointless.