The TSA's Response To Its Master Key Scandal Is Priceless

The TSA's Response to Its Master Key Scandal Is Priceless

"Scandal" might be too strong a word. But you'd the TSA would have been ashamed when hackers released 3D-printer files for its master keys, which can open any any TSA-recommended luggage lock. Does the TSA feel ashamed? Not even close.

In fact, the TSA seemingly gives zero fucks that anybody can now 3D-print master keys for luggage locks, despite the fact that the agency's been encouraging people to buy these locks for years. (Many have argued that these locks give travellers nothing more than a false sense of security.) The Intercept got a TSA spokesman on the horn, and his response to the controversy is just incredible.

"The reported ability to create keys for TSA-approved suitcase locks from a digital image does not create a threat to aviation security," explained Mike England, the TSA spokesman in question. "These consumer products are 'peace of mind' devices, not part of TSA's aviation security regime."

Wait what?! Suddenly, despite all those blog posts encouraging people to use these locks, the TSA suddenly decided that the locks are basically trinkets? So it seems.

"Carried and checked bags are subject to the TSA's electronic screening and manual inspection," Mike England added. "In addition, the reported availability of keys to unauthorised persons causes no loss of physical security to bags while they are under TSA control. In fact, the vast majority of bags are not locked when checked in prior to flight."

OK, Mike. Thanks for reminding us not to check luggage, ever.

[The Intercept]



    Funny in a really sad way. TSA Recommends use of TSA Locks. Locks may be easily opened by anyone, shit happens.

    I think your reaction is over the top and ridiculous. While what the TSA have done is dumb their comments are fine and reasonable. I never lock my luggage. Why would you? So many easy ways to open a case that is locked.

      Lol. i can assure you that, anyone stealing/from luggage, would not need to take it away with them where they can THEN easily open it. To try and, subtely, steal from someone's luggage in an airport, is a lot harder without taking the luggage away, than if you have a 3d-printed key and look like someone genuinely opening their luggage. Like, really? How are you and the TSA so...ignorant.

        Who is stealing stuff from my luggage and when? Luggage doesn't leave my sight while in the airport. It is also not in my possession for long. I arrive at the airport, walk up to the check in counter, give them my luggage and that's it. When is someone going to be able to access my luggage with a key? And also, what are they going to steal from my luggage? My underwear or toothpaste perhaps? My valuables are in my back pack and come on the plane with me. This bag also does not leave my sight. I have traveled extensively and have never used luggage locks.

        If you are going to put valuable stuff in your luggage and leave it around for people to access while you have your eyes closed then it sucks to be you. Why would you be so "ignorant"

          ...the issue is when PICKING UP your luggage. geez.
          If you need to go take a dump directly after deboarding your flight and dont go directly to your luggage, and if they happen to come out swiftly for once on the conveyors after a flight, while you are chucking a hypothetical dump, you will be without your luggage for some time. do you not understand how someone having a 3D FUCKING PRINTED MASTER KEY could be...problematic for you and the security of your luggage?

          ESPECIALLY for you, who doesnt even lock their
          good luck if something, ANYTHING WHATOSEVER prevents or delays you from being directly able to pickup your luggage after a flight.
          But i forget, because you happen to have godlike abilities to determine if some cheeky kunt luggage attendant snoops through your luggage or not (locked or not), with their TSA-supplied 3d-printed master key (or not in your idiotic case)... Because you can TOTALLY cater for EACH AND EVERY INDIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCE POSSIBLE...smh

          not an issue for your omnipotent ability to ensure your luggage is never broken into.

          internet delivers some fine logic, yet again

          Last edited 23/09/15 3:42 pm

            in regards to the topic of storing valuables in luggage....something invaluable to you could be considered valuable to others, parituclarly those in other parts of the world, with different socio-economic backgrounds.

            Also, for convenience, majority of people store things in luggage that could be considered of is almost impossible to avoid this, particularly if it is a large trip. Do you not shop? if you shop and can store it all in your carry on, then congratufuckinglations you must be a boring as fuck person.

            Common sense prevails here, we are obviously talking about stuff that you want to not have stolen, in one's luggage, so to say that you as an indivdual doesnt put valuables in their luggage and therefore that is your divine method of ensuring your luggage is secure, is the most stupid thing you could possible contribute in addition to the stupidity you alreayd have.

            Last edited 23/09/15 3:41 pm

          Read up on the case of Schapelle Corby, do you really want baggage handlers putting a kilo of cocaine in your luggage with the handler at the other end not taking it out and you then getting arrested and trying to explain? Sir did you pack your bag yourself - yes, has anyone else had possession - um only the airline and airport staff and any number of people that could have accessed it.

      Yeah and a thief might look at it and go "no lock? Must not be any valuables inside"!

      On the flip side, people are inherently lazy, so a suitcase without a lock might be a far more attractive target.

    Im sorry but this is stupid, who cares if they can print a key if someone wants to get into your bag do you really think a pissy little padlock with a 2mm thick bar on it will stop them? As they said its just for peace of mind. Its basically just a deterrant from would be opportunists.

    It's simple, if they can't open your lock they just cut it open if they want to check it. If someone really wants to break into luggage they'll do it anyway.

    Who cares if they can print a key
    The problem is how someone can get in your locked bag, to say, add 5kg of heroin, which you then get caught with in a country who executes people.

    "Honestly, anyone can print a lock key and break in to a bag" isn't going to help you.
    I check my bags before attempting to leave an airport to make sure nothing's been added for just this reason.

      It was my understanding that is the TSA master key was used there is a flag in the lock flicked which goes from green to red
      So if somebody has done that then the lock will show it

        Which only really helps you if you're going to/from America.
        If your TSA lock is opened on a flight to Denpasar, you're gonna have a bad day

        Haven't noticed any colored bits on my locks. Don't think I would know.

        And on this topic, planning on plugging the keyholes on this new luggage before use.

          If you are going to plug the holes so that the TSA can't open it then you might as well get a lock that doesn't have the master key. If they choose to open it they will just cut the lock anyway

    Unfortunately it's not really a piece of mind device either. The reality is, if TSA come across a lock they can't open, they simply cut the lock using bolt cutters and discard your lock if they pick your luggage for screening. Having a TSA approved lock simply means that you won't have to buy a new lock every time your luggage gets searched.

    The TSA randomly will inspect bags. These locks are there so they can open the lock instead of cutting it. You would never use one outside of the USA. I always switch over to them when I am flying into the states.

    To people saying there is no need to lock your luggage, you are forgetting that ground grew may be untrustworthy. I know people who have had valuables taken out of bags which were checked in. These most likely would tend to be opportunity crimes where someone at the airport, opens a zip has a quick look or feel when they can.

    Yeah getting in any bag can be easy, but it's a lot harder for a split second moment of opportunity crime for someone to be cutting open locks, rather than a quick peak inside from an easy slide of a zip.

    As someone who travels a bit, I always lock my bag and have never had anything stolen. However on many occasions I may have had a bag with a zip compartment which I store nothing in and when I check my luggage in it is closed. Yet when I pick it up it is open.

    People talk about cutting locks to open a suitcase. If it has a zip you can easily open it using a pen. Jam the pen in the zip and pull it around. Then to lock it just move the locked zip back around and the owner would never even know. No broken lock, no red "TSA has opened this" warning on a lock.
    It's all a false sense of security in the end.

    Just use cable ties. If anyone wants in to a zipped suitcase they can get in very easily (as john_c says). I carry a few cable ties whenever I fly for that reason. They can be snapped with just a pen when you get to the other end (because you can't fly with knife/scissors). The only time I've had the cable tie broken was when customs had a look through and they left a note inside saying something along the lines of "something looked dodgy, we checked, false alarm, all good".

    The point of the locks isn't to protect aircraft and never has been. The security checks protect the aircraft. The point of the locks that could be unlocked by security security staff was that if security staff wanted to take a closer look at something in your bag that they were concerned about, they can unlock the bag and check it out without having to come get you to unlock it.

    They're saying that from the time you check the luggage to the time you pick it up at your destination, only security staff will have access to open your bag, and they already have the keys.

    I'm assuming that everyone is concerned about a Schapelle Corby type situation where things are being added to your luggage after you have checked it. The thing about this, with the TSA, unless it is a bomb or something hazardous to the flight being added, they don't care. If it is a bomb, then it would have had to have bypassed all the security that baggage handlers and the like have to go through to get in everyday.

    Last edited 19/09/15 9:09 am

    A friend once bought a whole set of TSA approved combo locks, of a brand popularly sold in airports, for $25 each. It proved quicker (4s) to open them eyes closed than reading the numbers, and doesn't trigger the bypass flag like a dodgy master key will.

    I guess these locks do provide some additional notification:
    1. lock red flagged - your bag has been inspected, wasn't interesting
    2. lock missing (or zip busted) - your bag has been ransacked, wasn't interesting
    3. lock missing, still attached to bag - your expensive bag (or lock) was interesting
    4. lock intact - your bag has not been inspected, your drugs are still in there
    5. lock intact - your bag has not been inspected, someone else's drugs are in there
    6. lock intact - your bag has been inspected, they are waiting for you to claim the drugs in there - customs inspectors don't need master keys either.

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