The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the US nation-wide organization that works on the providing travellers’ security in airports, on bus and train stations, in ports etc. This is one of the agencies of the United States Department of Homeland Security, which was created as a response to the 9/11 attacks (Stanley 2012). The TSA was considered to be a better response to potential threats than the numerous private security organizations that had contracts with different airlines. Now this organization provides security for all the travellers on and over the territory of the United States.
There are five main groups of employees responsible for different operations of the TSA: federal marshals, transportation security officers, visible intermodal prevention and response teams, transportation security inspectors, and national explosives detection canine teams (Stanley 2012). Federal marshals are undercover agents with federal responsibility that are responsible for detection and management of hazardous passengers and cases. Transportation inspectors are responsible for the cargo security. The visible intermodal prevention and response teams are usually working outside the transportation centres (railway stations, airports etc.). Lastly, the transportation security officers comprise the largest group within the TSA with around 50 thousand employees. These people are responsible for screening passengers as well as providing the control over the entrance and exit points in airports and other transportation centres.
The Transportation Security Administration is often working with personal information of passengers, but unfortunately it has not always been successful in securing the private data of both employees and clients (Forthyse 2010). There are multiple cases of various types of identity theft in the TSA. Taking into consideration that identity theft is a growing problem for the United States as well as for other countries all over the world and emphasizing the importance of the transportation system not only for the US citizens, but in fact for all the passengers within the system, this report is focused on the identity theft in the Transportation Security Administration and the ways of controlling it.
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Types of Identity Theft in the TSA
Each year around ten million US citizens become the victims of identity theft (Frieden 2010). Within the Transportation Security Administration it is possible to define a number of various types of identity thefts that have to be taken into consideration. Noting that anyone travelling through the US transportation system can become a victim of the identity theft, this problem needs an immediate and rapid reaction. But before proposing any solutions, it is necessary to identify all the types of identity theft within the TSA.
In 2010, the first case of identity theft of the TSA employees was discovered. Taking into consideration that the Transportation Security Administration employees are the federal employees, this seem to be a complicated crime, although, in the mentioned case the identities were used just for ordinary purchases. The two offenders have acquired social security numbers, names, and dates of birth from a contractor working with the TSA’s HR department (Davidson 2010). Though, in this case the travel safety was not under a threat, it might not be the same in the future.
Not only employees suffer from the TSA’s inability to protect personal information. At one point the TSA website remained unsecure for at least four months, which has created a possibility for the identity thefts of passengers that have entered their personal data to the website (Singel 2009). Moreover, in fact these breakdowns of the TSA website have already happened several times (Paul 2008). Therefore, while collecting private data, the organization at the same time was not able to protect everyone who submitted it. The gaps in the on-line security system are also visible if one takes into consideration the time period, which the Transportation Security Administration required to identify the problem and take it under its control. Besides the private visitors have managed to see the website malfunction before the TSA did, which clearly shows a problem in the system.
Another great problem of the TSA is the luggage thefts (Athos 2012). One might think that they are not connected to the identity theft issue, but in fact there is a close tie between the two crimes. The rates of the luggage theft have been growing from the time the TSA took all the airports under the control. While in 2004 only 60 employees of the TSA were caught stealing; in the 2008, this number reached 200 (Poole 2010). It is essential that laptops are among the valuable items that get lost in airports. In 2007, within the TSA system two laptops with valuable and dangerous information were stolen (TSA Reports, Anon. 2007). Therefore, airport theft is one more way to abridge the identity safety. Orwoll (2012) describes a number of cases with missing tablets and video equipment, which memories have been toyed with.
In the early 2012, the TSA has decided to move to the automatic scanning systems in order to avoid mistakes made by employees who register passengers at check-in and boarding points. But then this move has caused a number of responses from worried groups and citizens, as the new equipment will be scanning all personal information from various ID documents (Stellin 2012). Therefore, the TSA database will have the passengers’ personal data, but might not be able to protect it.
The TSA also has two lists according to which the organization gives special attention to passengers: the “No Fly List” and the “Selectee List”. Those on the first list are not allowed to board an aircraft within the US, while those on the second one have to go through additional security procedures. With more than a million people on the “No Fly List”, a number of mistakes have been noted within the TSA database. The most common one is the story of an 8-year-old boy, whose parents have been unsuccessfully trying to remove their son from the list for a number of years (Alvarez 2010).
Due to the large amount of data within the system, the TSA is not able to properly manage all the personal information it collects, which leads to additional mistakes. As a result, the information of passengers is not only allocated in a wrong way, but also cannot be fixed in a due time.
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The TSA was established as a response to the potential terrorist attacks after the 9/11 events. In general, the organization has a very good aim and potentially, all the instruments to achieve this aim. But since the establishment of the organization, it has been constantly criticized in various ways. At the same time, the Transportation Security Administration is an essential element of the US security system; therefore, it should be further improved in order to properly serve the national security and its people.
The passengers serve as the main stimulus for the development and improvement of the TSA. This includes not only the citizens of the United States, but the passengers from all over the world that pass through at least one checkpoint of the US transportation system. Therefore, the proposed changes will not only increase the trust of the domestic passengers in the system, but will also gain international support and recognition.
The value of the information within the system should be also taken into consideration. Noting that information is in fact the weapon of the 21st century, its role and importance should never be underestimated (ID Theft, Anon. 2004). All the data acquired through the identity theft operations can be used in various fields, starting from everyday purchases and ending with dangerous national secrets. Consequently, the TSA should realize the necessity of the information protection.
The type of information that is used in the system is especially significant, as this organization has the responsibility to protect its customers in such unsafe conditions as aircraft transportation. Therefore, the TSA databases contain all the essential information on flights and passengers. This information needs additional protection, because it can directly influence the lives of passengers.
The TSA identity protection system requires improvements, because more than one group of actors is influenced by the current insecure system. Firstly, the passengers are not willing to give their personal data to the organization due to its inability to secure it. Secondly, the employees do not feel that their information within the system is protected. Thirdly, the aircraft and other transportation companies cannot rely on the TSA security. Lastly, the Unites States government cannot be sure that the organization is fulfilling its mission while the identity security systems get constantly violated.
The proposed program should improve all the various sides of the TSA secure identity system. Along with protecting the personal information of passengers and employees within the existing system, this program will also lay a background for the further developments of the electronic services of the TSA. Namely, it will raise the trust levels in the automatic registration systems that are currently introduced in the airports.
The main form of measuring the success of the improved security program will be the growing trust of the passengers in the system. Moreover, the statistics will show the decline in identity theft on different levels. This will be made by easier detection and prevention of identity theft crimes in the TSA.
Overview of a Proposed Change
This program proposes the improvement of identity protection techniques in a number of spheres: employee identity theft; customer identity theft; the “No Flight List” problems; identity theft by robbery. Each of the four problems requires a separate approach, which in the end will become a part of the general plan for the TSA security improvement.
One of the major problems with the “No Flight List” is the complicated system of removing someone from it (U.S. Federal Government, Anon. 2012). As it was already stated, it takes years to change something. The TSA already has a verification system for passengers whose identities have been stolen and used by criminals, thus this system requires improvements. First, the access to the procedures should be improved, as it is extremely complicated to find information (Martin 2012). Second, the procedure by itself should be made easier and more visible. Since it is complicated as the “No Flight List” is managed by the FBI and therefore, the information is not available to public. At the same time, in order to avoid numerous law suits (Cooper 2012) it would be essential for the TSA to take the passengers’ side and provide additional support by lobbying the people’s interests in the government and the FBI. This can be done by establishing a separate web resource for the identity theft victims, which will describe all that the TSA can do for them, as well as present a clear procedure for reclaiming the identity. This online resource should also provide a TSA hotline, as well as a list of lawyers who specialize in similar crimes.
In order to avoid the various types of identity thefts within the system the TSA should improve three basic elements: strengthen its data security; provide employees and passengers with safety tips and establish a system of identity reclaiming (About Identity Theft, Anon. n.d.). The security of data within the system can be improved by adding protection to all the information storages as well as the company’s website. At the same time, constant monitoring of all information channels should be conducted by the IT team in order to avoid previous mistakes and increase the time of reaction to the security breaches. Moreover, it is essential to control all the information that is given to employees. Everyone who is working directly with the databases or personal information of passengers and/or employees should bare criminal responsibility for sharing secured information.
People’s awareness is almost as important as the system’s safety. Both passengers and employees should be informed about the basic steps for identity protection: safe passwords, sharing only a limited amount of personal information, careful use of Wi-Fi networks, etc. (Taking charge, Anon. 2012). At the same time a list of identity theft signs should be shared (Harris 2009). This will be the way to make people react faster in case their identity gets stolen. The TSA will not only provide its customers and employees with necessary information, but also show that the organization cares for the people. Such Public Relations will be a very positive step if one takes into consideration all the negative feedback the TSA currently gets.
In the case of the employee identity theft the TSA has already hired ID Experts team, whose main responsibility was to restore all the stolen identity information (TSA Selects ID Experts, Anon. 2010). There is a point in a creation of a department consisting of the ID experts, who will be constantly providing not only employees, but also the TSA customers with support on identity of theft problems.
The identity of theft by robbery appears in cases when the airport employees steal personal belongings of passengers that contain information (laptops, cameras, tablets etc.). As it was already noted, it is a common problem for the TSA employees. To a major extend, the TSA cannot cope with the crimes conducted by its employees, because it does not fully cooperate with local police and even those employees who were detected as felons did not get any criminal charges, but were rather punished within the organization (Poole 2010). This system seems to be inefficient and requires stricter measures to be applied to the TSA employees. Two major actions can be offered: improved training and strict punishment. The better training systems will make the TSA employees aware of the company’s culture and values, as well as of the punishments that exist within the organization. At the same time, criminal punishments will decrease the number of offenders in the TSA.
Risks and Challenges
The main challenge of the proposed program is a creation of a separate ID theft department within the TSA. It will require not only financial support, but also HR resources, as the department will be formed from a scratch. Consequently, specialists will have to be found and hired; moreover, the department responsibilities created and presented; the methods will have to be plainly defined as well. The most challenging would be the planting of the new department within the existing TSA system. Therefore, before creating the department it will be essential to present its projects and agree on it with all the actors within the TSA, as well as with the stakeholders (the US Government and the transportation organizations).
The second challenge within the proposed program is the overall change of the cooperation between the TSA and local law enforcement systems. Taking into consideration that currently the TSA has a policy of limited cooperation, a huge part of the organization’s rules will have to be rewritten. The proposed change will obviously have a lot of opponents both among the average TSA members and those at management positions, because the increased cooperation with law enforcement outside the TSA will decrease the power of organization’s officials.
Overall, the proposed changes are significant and will require some major alterations within the TSA. As a result, an opposition within the organization can be expected, both from managerial staff and employees. At the same time, customers will most probably support the change, as it will provide them with more secure operations.
A Justification of the Project Lifecycle and Methodology
Taking into consideration the fact that the proposed project will make a major change in the Transportation Security Administration structure, as well as in its’ methods of cooperation with the local law enforcement systems, it is essential to provide the TSA management with the clear and coherent plan of the project’s implementation. After the presentation of the project and its’ support, the first step will be a creation of a basic analytic ID protection department. At the beginning it has to be small with a short term result in order to evaluate the existing system and define all the breaches on the basis of the current report. According to the department’s evaluation, it will be extended with the correspondence to the TSA needs. A hotline will be created, as well as various materials on identity theft and the “No Watch List”. A separate part of the department will be working with the TSA IT department in order to monitor and control the data safety of the TSA. The ID protection department will also conduct regular checks of the whole TSA system in order to adjust to all the potential hazards that may arise within the organization.
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