The master keys used in the US airports by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents to open suspicious luggage have been leaked online and recreated from photos as 3D-printable blueprints. Now almost everyone can create master keys.
Although several travelers consider the security system used by TSA to be irritating, these master keys were created as a safety measure to open almost any suspicious baggage, regardless of its vendor, without cutting the lock.
Apparently, according to an old TSA blog post, these master keys were created by the vendors themselves and given to the TSA agents, in order to avoid damages and save time while doing inspections on a daily basis.
How did it happen?
The TSA agreed to have these master keys photographed. One of the picture was released in a Washington Post article and, after some hours, deleted since the TSA agents noticed the risk.
However, it was already too late. The image made the round of discussion sites and was posted and reproduced on countless sites like Reddit. A user from GitHub -a page with more than 10 million users where they can build software by discovering and contributing to over 26 million projects-, came across the picture.
Steven K., who goes by the user Xylitol on the GitHub site, is a security researcher who recreated the master lock keys as 3D-printable blueprints. He later decided to publish the Computer Aided Design files (CAD files), which have the information of the images to be 2D and 3D printed, and made them available for download to anyone who wanted them.
Consequently, Unix administrator Bernard Bolduc claimed he reproduced the keys in about five minutes with a PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer, using inexpensive PLA plastic. The copy worked perfectly.
But, is it a big deal?
Although TSA agents claim they opened the baggage for security reasons, they are known to be involved in baggage theft as well. ABC News made in 2012 a Freedom of Information Act request for statistics on TSA agents fired for theft, and found that nearly 400 TSA agents had been fired for allegedly stealing from travelers.
They also collected some serious data about the airports where baggage theft is more common, and the results were not very encouraging. The top 20 airports for TSA theft, there are the busiest ones like:
- Miami International Airport (29)
- JFK International Airport (27)
- Los Angeles International Airport (24)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (17)
- Las Vegas-McCarren International Airport (15)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and New York-Laguardia Airport (14 each)
- Newark Liberty, Philadelphia International, and Seattle-Tacoma International airports (12 each)
- Orlando International Airport (11)
- Houston-George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport (10 each)
- Washington Dulles International Airport (9)
- Detroit Metro Airport and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (7)
- Boston-Logan International, Denver International and San Diego International airports (6)
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (5)
Source: Top Tech News