TSA keys – less than worthless

Do you use a lock with the red and white icon as the one in the picture? If so, I hope that you do not think your luggage to be secure. And not because the Washington Post published a picture of the keys.

The United States’ Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has authority to security-check humans and luggage moving through airports in the USA. This includes a right to inspect your bag in your absence. Not being particularly good at this security thing, they have deemed that if you want your baggage to arrive undamaged at the destination, you had better use TSA-approved locks to which they have master keys. The ones that you see in the big picture.

Consider the implications. Thousands of TSA agents all over the United States possess these keys. In order for this system to be secure, every one of these keys must be kept hidden, used only for the intended purpose, and the certainty must exist that no one other than the agent/TSA team must ever come into contact with their set. If someone criminally-minded were to get hands on those keys, and had access to baggage… AHA! But who could be so evil? The TSA has fired at least 513 officers for theft since 2002. Even if the TSA officers could be trusted with the bags, no one else could be, on account of the fact that the master keys are out in the open. And what does it take for someone to make a copy of these locks? A photo of the keys, no more.

What the TSA have done then, with their invasive searches that threaten to destroy bags, is to reduce security for everyone. Being required to use TSA locks means that nothing of value can be placed in check-in luggage on a flight to/from/in the United States. The Washington Journal article only brought out the fact into the open; it did not cause it.

How to NOT be safe when you walk home alone

The Companion Safety App has been getting some coverage in online media, mostly positive, in the last few days. The advertisement for Companion shows two girls separately asking to be “accompanied” on their walks to their destinations. Their “companions” are people who are following their friends’ progresses on their phones from the comfort of their homes.

What should you do if you find yourself walking alone at night and feel unsafe? Here are some tips. Walk quickly to the nearest place where you will be safe. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not present an easy target. Be ready to run. If the situation is really desperate, prepare to fight. Whatever you do, do not pick up your phone and let yourself be distracted from your surroundings. That is precisely what the Companion Safety App will tempt you to do.

Consider the two girls in the advertisement. The first one holds on to her phone after she “gets” her companion. The second actively plays with her phone and dumbwalks despite the fact that she needs accompaniment.

When you are in danger, what is most important is to immediately protect yourself. One should not allow oneself to a false sense of security merely on account of a virtual companion. There is a distinction between being safe and feeling safe. The Companion Safety App causes users to opt for the latter instead of the former.