US increases international airport security, targeting electronic devices

Amid growing concerns of a terrorist plot to destroy a US-bound airliner, American authorities have called for increased security at certain overseas airports that operate direct flights to the United States. The first such measures were introduced a few days ago on the orders of Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and today, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a press release that clarified some of what travellers should now expect when travelling: 

As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

BBC News reports that the increased security is in response to a “credible” threat based on intelligence suggesting that al-Qaeda affiliated militants in Syria and Yemen have been developing explosive devices that can evade airport security checks.

American officials believe that terrorists may be attempting to convey the device onto a passenger jet in the body of a phone, tablet, laptop or ‘other electronic device’. According to Reuters, Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones have been “singled out” for additional security checks.

As the TSA explained, if you are unable to turn on one of your electronic devices upon request, you will not be allowed to board the plane with it, and you may be delayed for further questioning and 'screening', which could make you miss your flight entirely. If you are flying to the US, you should ensure that your device is adequately charged before heading to the airport, and try to give yourself some extra time in case of delays. 

Additional security measures will include 'closer checks' and extra screening on passengers' shoes, as well as on their devices. In 2001, Richard Reid attempted to detonate an explosive device contained within his shoe aboard American Airlines flight 67 from Paris to Miami; on Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear on Northwest Airlines 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. While neither of these efforts was successful, officials remain keenly aware of the need to prevent anyone from getting this close again, even if this ultimately inconveniences the travelling public. 

Not all airports are affected by the increased security, but international airports in the UK, France and Germany have confirmed that they will be complying with the moves, with certain airports - not revealed by the TSA - across Europe, the Middle East and Africa also required to meet its newly established security standards. 

Source: TSA | TSA agent image via Carolina K. Smith MD / Shutterstock.com

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So basically having a dead battery means your either a criminal or terrorist. Good job TSA!
So that also means you'll be subjected to an interrogation, which can be scary and it'll also mean you go on record which means bye bye job!

I view it as "you're using this service, you abide by these rules". No different in concept than the TOS for online services to my mind. If I don't want to follow the rules set forth, I can drive to where I'm going. Assuming that's practical.

I don't see why it's so difficult to take this into consideration when using your devices - do a little less work on the laptop or read instead of watching a movie on your tablet while in the airport or in flight, and you'll hopefully have enough charge to pass the checkpoint.

TSA logic:
10x100ml in separate containers + an empty 1L container= safe
Rearrange that as 1L of fluid in 1L container + 10 empty 100ml containers = unsafe

I agree with everyone here. Security is important, but the TSA and their rules are useless and not well thought out.

Surely, this does not make sense. Why allow any charged items on planes going to the US. They should be taken without batteries as they are obviously a potential power source for a trigger.

Much easier than having to carry matches in your socks or underpants!

This presents a problem to me in the form of my laptop's battery being dead and it can only be used/fully powered on when it is plugged in. As long as they don't mind me plugging it in and powering it on, that's fine.

Question: I see that the TSA is a government agency so they have the right to arrest and such, correct? If so, if I power on my laptop and on the desktop there is a icon saying "LatestMovie.2014.BRRip.AC3-SomeGroup" could I be arrested for illegal copyright material?

DConnell said,
ClassicMovie.1975.DVDRip.AC3-SomeGroup.

not sure if theres DVD in 1975 .... perhaps it should say "LDRip" for laser disc.

earlier this year i brought an xbox one from abroad. it cant be powered on like a laptop.

How will I be able to bring it to and from USA?

Another useless policy from a useless agency. The TSA doesn't do anything more than cause undue annoyance to passengers and the aviation industry.

If they were serious about stopping terrorists they would be focusing their efforts on ways that actually work. Solely responding to "perceived" threats by banning that attack vector makes the job of the attacker all the much easier. They know everything the TSA is looking for and could easily bypass their checks if they had a desire to do so.

For instance, what does powering on a laptop really do? Nothing. What is to stop someone from embedding a Raspberry Pi into a laptop to bypass a "power on" test? Nothing really. But by deeming the device "safe" because it can be "powered on" they have handicapped themselves while educating the supposed target of their tactics.

They need to dump the TSA and focus on real anti-terrorism measures that actually garner real results.

LogicalApex said,
Another useless policy from a useless agency. The TSA doesn't do anything more than cause undue annoyance to passengers and the aviation industry.
That's where you're wrong. They do do other things, such as cause travellers to pay additional fees when buying tickets and throw away brand new tubes of toothpaste.

Torolol said,
That however bring out new business opportunity, by selling a battery or power bank at extort-ive pricing rates.

Already exists in many international airports. But you need to get past security to get to them.

Nashy said,
So if my battery is dead, I lose my gear? America is getting dumber and dumber the more I read.

Kinda dumb of you not to bring a charger on your trip. The only thing you have to do is show your device is in working order. You can do that with 5-10% battery was well.

.Neo said,

Kinda dumb of you not to bring a charger on your trip. The only thing you have to do is show your device is in working order. You can do that with 5-10% battery was well.

I'm not saying I will have this problem, but it happens. Many people could forget their charges. Many people may have forgotten to charge their phone before they left.

There are so many reasons why someone could show up with a phone or laptop without charge. Many of those reasons listed here.

Didn't anyone watch the first season of 24 where Jack had to take the laptop-hiding-the-sniper-rifle inside it through security? :p

Perhaps the tightened security is a good deterrent. I find it hilarious how those who do nothing to keep the country safe, are always complaining about the inconveniences of security. Yet, when there is an incident, they're the first ones to start wearing their flag pins.

MorganX said,
Perhaps the tightened security is a good deterrent. I find it hilarious how those who do nothing to keep the country safe, are always complaining about the inconveniences of security. Yet, when there is an incident, they're the first ones to start wearing their flag pins.

Eh, you'll never see me complain. I don't fly. But, that's America for you. Everybody always has someplace to be.

Dot Matrix said,
"I caught a terrorist!" <- said no TSA agent, ever.

No, but things like this are always done in response to an attempted attack, or information regarding a future attack.

I really don't see the issue with being able to power on your device, since to being done at the point of departure. Not during connections, or at your arrival, but at departure. It's just to make sure the device is real, and not a dummy with fake electronics.

MorganX said,
Perhaps the tightened security is a good deterrent. I find it hilarious how those who do nothing to keep the country safe, are always complaining about the inconveniences of security. Yet, when there is an incident, they're the first ones to start wearing their flag pins.

I find it hilarious how most people think that the TSA is nothing but a complete failure, even most people who work in the aviation industry think so.

A physic could probably do a better job at catching terrorists / people trying to take things on planes that they're not supposed to (even if its by accident) than the people you see at airports.

Once again, I have no problem with airport security. I have a problem with the TSA. They don't do a good job at anything and they can easily be replaced by more capable people.

Let's hope they can keep laptop/tablet explosives off flights. I'm sure terrorists are already now working to built a laptop bomb that will leave the device functional until explosion time.

I'm sure the TSA can be improved, I just don't believe it is worthless.

Brian M. said,

No, but things like this are always done in response to an attempted attack, or information regarding a future attack.

I really don't see the issue with being able to power on your device, since to being done at the point of departure. Not during connections, or at your arrival, but at departure. It's just to make sure the device is real, and not a dummy with fake electronics.

Just because it powers on, doesn't mean it's not going to be used in an attack. Cell phone triggered bombs have been around for just about the same time mobile devices have.

Just because it powers on, doesn't mean it's not going to be used in an attack. Cell phone triggered bombs have been around for just about the same time mobile devices have.

This would be for gutting a device and using the chassis to hide a weapon. For a modern cell phone, there isn't much free space inside the shell to hide something unless a vital component like the battery pack is swapped out.

MorganX said,
Perhaps the tightened security is a good deterrent. I find it hilarious how those who do nothing to keep the country safe, are always complaining about the inconveniences of security. Yet, when there is an incident, they're the first ones to start wearing their flag pins.

Those who "do nothing to keep the country safe" actually say to stop messing around in other countries, like installing totalitarian governments or killing people.
Which is actually the ultimate solution to all this crap.
But you obviously still believe that "they hate us for our freedom".

Dot Matrix said,

Just because it powers on, doesn't mean it's not going to be used in an attack. Cell phone triggered bombs have been around for just about the same time mobile devices have.

As said above - it's not about using a cell phone as triggers. It's about replacing circuity in devices with something capable of causing damage. I would imagine they have uncovered a plot to do such a thing, hence why we have the additional security check. It's pretty obvious that, if a device powers on, there's far less chance of it being tampered with inside.

They must know something we don't. The religious terrorists are very sneaky and unfortunately ruin the flight experience for your average citizen.

I agree with you, but I don't see how this particular requirement, ruins the flight experience for the average citizen. People keep their batteries charged when they're not traveling, they can do it when they're taking a flight into the US, or they can leave the device at home.

MorganX said,
I agree with you, but I don't see how this particular requirement, ruins the flight experience for the average citizen. .

You don't know Enron

Folks get unhappy for being made to power on their devices before takeoff. Then they're unhappy for being made to power off their devices during takeoff.

Because people bring Electronic Devices along to keep them entertained during the extremely dull period when their sitting in the airport drumming their fingers on the seat doing sweet fa.

Quite often these devices will die or run out of battery before hand ald airports generally don't provide enough sockets for even a small percentage of it's passengers to remain plugged in.

I never understood why the ability to turn on a device means it's instantly safe.

As the TSA explained, if you are unable to turn on one of your electronic devices upon request, you will not be allowed to board the plane with it

Dumbest ######ing thing ever. What if you had a laptop with a dead battery or if your flight got delayed or you were transferring and your battery died? You get denied boarding or you have to throw away your electronic devices?

Want to improve security at our airports? Get rid of the useless trash otherwise known as the TSA. One thing I've never understood is we have all these vets that are jobless, some of them are pretty well trained and disciplined and we don't hire them for airport security. Nope instead we hire high school dropouts to make us feel safe.

I used to travel pretty regularly and I've seen things from screwdrivers to switchblades on people past the security gates. And that's not even considering the fact that they constantly fail their internal security checks in which an undercover agent tries to smuggle various banned objects on board.

-Razorfold said,

Dumbest ######ing thing ever. What if you had a laptop with a dead battery or if your flight got delayed or you were transferring and your battery died? You get denied boarding or you have to throw away your electronic devices?

You also have the option of not entering the US if you can't manager your dead batteries. It's the new rule, deal with it.

MorganX said,

You also have the option of not entering the US if you can't manager your dead batteries. It's the new rule, deal with it.

And this is why we still have the TSA.

Guess what, my old laptops battery was dead for 2 years but since I kept it plugged in 100% of the time it didn't bother me. I shouldn't have to make sure all my electronics are 100% charged just so I can get through security.

Maybe if the TSA actually focused on what they were supposed to do rather than banning everything under the sun and spending hundreds of millions on full body scanners that they later got rid of, we could actually make airports and air travel safer. But instead we have a group that has failed pretty much every single security check that homeland security has thrown at them. And that makes you feel safer? I feel sorry for you.

And btw, I live in the US.

Actually, I do feel safer. Safer than before the tightened security. And if you're already in the US, it will only affect you if you leave, on your return trip. So charge or get a new battery somewhere in between.

I take it you believe the TSA just, in a moment of boredom, decided to implement this in the countries referenced.

MorganX said,
Actually, I do feel safer. Safer than before the tightened security. And if you're already in the US, it will only affect you if you leave, on your return trip. So charge or get a new battery somewhere in between.

I take it you believe the TSA just, in a moment of boredom, decided to implement this in the countries referenced.

If you actually bothered to read the rest of my post you'll see where I stand on this issue. I have no problem with airport security, I have a problem with the people the TSA hire. They're hardly capable to do even the most basic of tasks, and even though we have people in this country who are far more capable we push them aside to hire rejects who can't even pass their own agencies security checks.

MorganX said,
Actually, I do feel safer. Safer than before the tightened security. And if you're already in the US, it will only affect you if you leave, on your return trip. So charge or get a new battery somewhere in between.

I take it you believe the TSA just, in a moment of boredom, decided to implement this in the countries referenced.


The problem is that turning on a device do not imply that a clever operator would not be able to stuff some explosive in it. Much better, and safer, would be the use of equipments able to sniff for explosive or traces of residues.

Cosmocronos said,

The problem is that turning on a device do not imply that a clever operator would not be able to stuff some explosive in it. Much better, and safer, would be the use of equipments able to sniff for explosive or traces of residues.

I agree with that. I would guess there's a credible threat prompting this. But yes, I'm sure the next evolution of whatever prompted this, will be to weaponize the device and keep it fully functional. It's a never-ending battle. Doing something is better than doing nothing. At least now they'll have to work a little harder. This war is 24/7/365. We're hearing about this because it impacts the convenience of citizens. Most will just comply, it's not that big of a deal IMO.

-Razorfold said,
I shouldn't have to make sure all my electronics are 100% charged just so I can get through security.

Your electronics stop working when hitting 99% charged? Where does it say your device has to be 100% charged?

Can see it now, please sir can you turn on your bomb or you wont be able to board plane...*Boom*....TSA agent and all the check in passengers die, TSA, mission accomplished.

.Neo said,

Your electronics stop working when hitting 99% charged? Where does it say your device has to be 100% charged?

Because delays are always possible you might as well play it safe and make sure its as fully charged as possible, hence 100%.

Especially if you're connecting. Some airports (for example, Tokyo International Airport) require you to go through security again even if you're on a connecting flight to the US. If you use your phone or laptop on a flight that doesn't have inflight power you could end up with a dead battery.

I think you can always check it =). Just put your laptop in your BIG suitcase and check it and I think it will be fine =).

To be fair, if there is the opportunity to charge the device just before security then it doesn't take long at all to charge a device up enough to switch on for the short while it will take in security.

That's a big if though.