It’s been a while since I written anything. I have a list of things I would like to write about, but somehow I haven’t sat down to think them through.
To my surprise, here I am, sitting down writing about what seems to be a recurring subject: bypassing security checks without even trying. Not because I’m great at bypassing them, but because the checks are bad and I just happen to want to see the situations through.
This time around the subject is traveling light by air.
I was going back from a short trip inside Argentina. I had a small bag pack with me. I saw the long check-in lines so I headed to the self service kiosk.
I selected my airline from the options, entered my name and last name, flight number, and BAM! boarding pass.
“Oh wow, that was way easier than I expected”, I thought. How well designed this system is to make the experience the best possible!
Boarding pass in my hand, I can’t help but wonder, “How far will I be able to go without being asked for an ID?” So I gave it a try. I did nothing out of the ordinary or illegal, I just played this game in my head as I went through all the steps you go through to get to your flight.
I head towards the security checks, boarding pass was all I needed. I head towards my plane, boarding pass was all I needed. And that was it! I made it all the way through.
On boarding pass security
Human security controls are not the only thing flawed here. As Karsten Nohl explains amazingly in his talk Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? at the 33c3 the whole system is quite messy.
I highly recommend you brew some tea and watch that talk.
Now… In Argentina we have this thing call the DNI, which is an mandatory ID that every citizen has to have. It’s kind of like a SSN but not really private; you enter your DNI number everywhere. You can even find it online, you only need a name.
I remember talking about our system with somebody I knew from another country, and his take on it was that having this form of ID allows way too much control over citizens. You’re tagged with a number as you are born and that’s it: you’re in “the system”.
It’s a valid take on the subject, but at the same time, we do want some controls. Where’s the right balance? Which is the whole point of this post.
If you over do it on the control side, you depend on whomever is on the other side of the controls. Are they good? Then you’re fine. The problem is that “good” is tricky to define too. So you shifted the problem; it’s still as tricky as before.
So you remove all controls? That might lead to bad situations going completely unnoticed.
If your kid is kidnapped, you’re going to want controls everywhere. But if those controls, after they rescue your kid, end up not letting you go somewhere because of arbitrary things such as your religious beliefs then things are not as nice.
The problem is who decides what to control and how. Can we add controls without people behind them? Or with enough people that they are good for everyone?
It’s not the first time this kind of thing happens
I like sensationalist titles. This one was not my own: a friend of mine mentioned human trafficking when I wrote to our group chat explaining this whole thing in one line, and she had a good point there. It’s a real problem, and clearly it’s super easy to just hop on a plane using a bogus name.
And just like this situation, I once closed a bank account without showing my ID and I realized one could steal babies somewhat easily.
I hope you enjoy the tales even if they have a bitter sweet taste in between the lines.