The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Security lines at US airports just got longer.

According to news reports like this one in the Washington Post, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) classified operating manual was accidentally posted online during a contract solicitation. The manual tells what can go undetected during security searches, as well as what is likely not to be searched. 

As noted by the Post,

"The TSA operating manual, which went online in March, includes information about whom screeners target for special scrutiny and the technical settings used by metal and explosives detection equipment at airports.... the manual also describes procedures used for foreign dignitaries and CIA-escorted passengers, calibration standards and technical limits of detection equipment, and the frequency with which checked bags are to be hand-searched. "

The operating manual was heavily digitally redacted, but the redaction was incorrectly done. Bloggers were able to strip away the redactions, and the manual was open for everyone to see.

A recent blog post here by a lawyer outlines some other recent redaction goofs. Here is how to do it properly, courtesy of the US District Court of Northern California.

The Post says that the TSA claimed, "...the posted manual, dated May 2008, was outdated and was never implemented. Six more recent versions have been issued since that one, a TSA official said."

The TSA, of course, didn't say what percentage of the 93-page operating manual actually has been changed in the latest version; my guess, not too much.

The TSA says it takes this matter seriously.

I'll let you decide about that as you stand waiting in your airport screening line this holiday season..

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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