Right after we learn of the existence of Frankenstein–and that he’s escaped–is a difficult time for us villagers. We naturally want to take action of some sort. And so it has been in the aftermath of 9/11 with airport security. In case you haven’t heard, one initiative the government is proposing is called Secure Flight. The best person to explain its merits and flaws is Bruce Schneier, a very smart fellow who knows security inside and out. How do I know this?
Well, I know he knows security because I’ve read his book Secrets & Lies, which I commend to you as a comprehensive and easy-to-read (because he’s a good writer) explanation of how computer security works. And computer security is pretty much what we are talking about with any new program that the government will propose. Schneier doesn’t think Secure Flight is workable, as this snippet reveals:
Imagine for a minute that Secure Flight is perfect. That is, we can
ensure that no one can fly under a false identity, that the watch lists
have perfect identity information, and that Secure Flight can perfectly
determine if a passenger is on the watch list: no false positives and
no false negatives. Even if we could do all that, Secure Flight
wouldn’t be worth it.
Secure Flight is a passive system. It waits for the bad guys to buy
an airplane ticket and try to board. If the bad guys don’t fly, it’s a
waste of money. If the bad guys try to blow up shopping malls instead
of airplanes, it’s a waste of money.
If you really care about airport security then go read Schneier’s complete post. Then if you are still inclined to get a torch and join an action-oriented mob at least you’ll have some deeper perspective of the futility of your goal.