Sunday, October 29, 2006

So easy, even grownups can use it!

Which is worse: having a crush on a probable computer geek you’ve never even seen, or knowing that he's not only a geek, but too young for you? Both indignities corroded my soul, just a little, when I first read about Christopher Soghoian, a 24-year-old doctoral student who set up a website to shine a light through another gaping hole in what passes for airport security:
A computer security student says terrorists would have no trouble getting around the government’s no-fly list, and to prove it he set up a Web site that prints fake boarding passes.

The passenger name on the fake boarding pass is “Bin Laden/Osama,” although travelers can put in their own name — or a fake one — and change the flight information, too. . . . before that savvy computer users could modify an airline Web page to print fake boarding passes, but Soghoian took it a step further and automated it.

“Before, any 12-year-old could have done it,” Soghoian said on Friday. “Now any 30- or 40-year-old could do it as well.”

A Website giving middle-aged people the competence of twelve-year-olds? I don’t feel too frightened, though a TSA spokesman assures us this Website threatens us all:

“The Web site really has the potential to promote illegal activity,” he said. “Showing fraudulent documents to get through security is against the law.”

Soghoian said the fake boarding pass couldn’t get anyone onto a flight — as long as the airline’s computers were working — because the bar code wouldn’t match the other information on the pass. . . . Soghoian said taking nail clippers and liquids away from travelers is just giving them a false sense of security, and that he’s trying to show where the real threats are.

“When they say ’For security reasons,’ everyone shuts up, everyone follows the rules, and no one questions authority. And I don’t think that’s right,” he said.

I keep hoping that sooner or later America will have another rebellious youth generation like back in the 60s, only without the unwashed-hippie Communist overtones. Hope — an odd emotion that has almost druglike effects on the brain of a misanthropic cynic, thus making her uncharacteristically starry-eyed and lovey-dovey until she got to the very end of the story:

He said no one from the government had complained to him about the site, yet.

“If I get a letter from the government telling me to take it down, then I’ll take it down straightaway,” Soghoian said.

So much for the rebellious-hacker-Neo-Matrix fantasy idea. Did I say I had a crush? I must have been delirious. Forget I even brought it up.


Blogger rhhardin said...

Bin Laden isn't going to blow himself up. You're safe on that flight.

4:21 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

If terrorists want to kill a bunch of people at the airport they don't need boarding passes, ID, or even hair gell. All they need is a bomb. The airport already offers unsecured targets: The long lines of people crowded together waiting for security screening.

If a suicide bomber blows himself up in the line before security screening, I fear that this will be the end of air travel as we know it.

As far as the guy who did the website, I don't blame him for saying he'd take it down if asked. I doubt he wants to be labeled an "enemy combatant."

5:55 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Bah, no woman in her early 30s who's childless is too old for a 24 year old nerd.

10:07 AM  
Blogger harmoniousjosh said...

Dude got busted by the FBI. Democrat congresscommie Edward Markey had called for his arrest, then took it back.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Katherine Townsend said...

So ummm, do I have a say in this, since I currently do hold the title of said computer geek's girlfriend? Or is this like the geek-status equivalent of rock-star fame and I should keep such ball-and-chain status on the dl.
And out of curiousity, what is up with redheads throwing themselves at our young Mr. Soghoian? =D

7:21 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Ooooo!!! Catfight!!!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Dammit, I thought all I had to worry about was my significant other reading this post. The thought of Soghoian's significant other never entered my mind.

Wait. Guys getting PhDs in computer stuff don't have girlfriends!!! All right, "Katherine," who are you really?

(If you really are Soghoian's girlfriend: I read that he's now in trouble with the FBI. I also read that he has a PayPal account set up for people to send donations to his legal fund, but I could not find it. My e-mail address is in my profile; if you mail me a link to his PayPal account I'll make a new post linking to it.)

6:45 AM  

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