Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Who is Minding the Store?

This comes as absolutely no surprise to me.

As one of the many lucky humans who happens to have a common enough name that someone with a similar name is on the No Fly List, I have to put up with extra hassles every time I want to fly. Like, I can virtually never check in online, which is most annoying when flying with, say, Southwest Airlines, where the order of your check-in affects the quality of your seat (first come, first served).

It only takes a few moments to get it all cleared up: one look at my driver's license, they see the birth date doesn't match, and off I go. But the damage has been done: I've already had to stand in a line and hope that someone who knows what they are doing is at the counter.

At one point, I was interested in trying to clear my name. Early on, there was a very unencouraging many-generations-old photocopied letter that the airlines would give me, helpfully pointing me to a page at the TSA website where they basically said I could write them a letter and they might think about doing some unspecified thing that might help.

Um, gee...no thanks.

Now it appears they eventually did an equally unspectacular job when they created the online version. From the Washington Post Security Fix blog:
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began its investigation into security lapses at the TSA's Traveler Redress Web site last year, after Security Fix and other media outlets pointed out that the site accepted Social Security numbers and other sensitive information from travelers without encrypting the data, potentially allowing hackers to intercept the data. Wired.com noted in its coverage that the site was so laden in spelling errors that it resembled a phishing Web site, the sort typically set up by scammers to lure people into giving away personal and financial data.
Great. These Keystone Kops can't even put up a secure website. I sure want to hand over lots of my personal information to them. And for what? It's not like they're going to remove my namesake from The List, so the airlines will still have to verify that I'm not him.
But in the meantime, they'll have exposed my personal information so some identity thief can buy himself some tickets to Rio and then find himself unable to fly anyway. I feel so much better.



David Schuetz said...

Should I mention that you've now tipped off the 'real' terrorist with your name that he's on the list and now needs to travel under a pseudonym?

Or is it best not to dwell on that? :)

Houston Dunleavy said...

Yes, one is sometimes tempted to think the whole thing has been outsourced to a bunch of kids on Work Study, or a bunch of white collar criminals on Day Release.

It also maeks me thankful ot have what seems to amount to a unique name :-)

btw, David, having now used the "t" word on the internet, should I mention you are probably even now being tracked by a 16-year-old hacker doing work for the NSA as part of his community service sentence for causing the collapse of three small, emerging economies with a two-line virus command ending in the word "fart"?

Nah.....probably best not to think about it. The guy parked outside your house for the past three days probably really is broken down and awaiting roadside assistance. He's got a nice camera though. ;-)

Houston Dunleavy said...

In a possibly realted event, I've just read a news story on the Australian ABC site that reports a phone company cutting off an FBI international wire tap for late payment of a bill!

Full report at: