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TSA gave my MacBook Pro to another passenger at LAX, and now it's gone (echeng.com)
385 points by jackgavigan on May 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments

I don't get why this was deemed an accident. If you have me a random laptop, I'll ask you what the hell you're doing. I won't take it, walk away and then board another flight. That isn't an accident, that's theft.

Unless of course they've got a spare Macbook that actually did belong to the woman, which she left thinking she was taking her own Macbook, but there's nothing indicating that this is the case.

So you've got two very clear issues. One is a passenger who stole $3k on broad daylight, who is on footage and can easily be traced to a particular flight, which can easily be traced to a passenger list, which can easily trace back to her.

The other is that you've got a custodial relationship for a few minutes. You give objects away to be inspected, at which point the TSA becomes a temporary custodian. They ought to return it.

I can imagine that the TSA restricts their liability to e.g. $5k per item, and that its liabilities are covered if and when it has a proper safe-keeping procedure in place that's followed, such they're not held accountable for 'acts of god' (which is a legal concept). This would provide sufficient incentives to create very simple procedures that'd prevent 99% of such issues, like described earlier in this thread in India. You have a box with two tags, you get one, the employee at the end gets one, you put stuff in box, you give tag, you take stuff from box, that's it.

But the notion that they're taking your stuff without any liability, responsibility, insurance, procedures or just in general, recourse, is ridiculous.

>> I don't get why this was deemed an accident. <<

Reading the story, there is this little voice saying in the back of my head, "They don't want to treat it as a crime because they know who has it and they're in cahoots."

I would really, really doubt this. My assumption is that they either:

1. They have statistics that they have to keep up, and having a ding like "a crime was committed on your watch" isn't a good thing, so they try to avoid it, or 2. Classifying it as a crime versus an accident comes with a load of paperwork and hassle for everybody involved that no one wants to do.

I really don't think this was malicious in the manner you describe.

"Fuck this other person because I don't want to fill out a form."

I kind of feel laziness of that nature is its own kind of maliciousness.

not the same but congruent but there was the baggage theft ring[0] at JFK that focused on easily resalable electronics (and other goods).

[0] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/baggage-theft-...

> I would really, really doubt this.

I kind of doubt it too, but I wonder if accusing them personally of theft would light a fire under their butts to actually do something about it.

This doesn't prove intent or lack thereof, but the author has posted that the woman who received the laptop has contacted him.


> I would really, really doubt this.

Just curious, do you say that with knowledge of the fact that is on record happening multiple times? Or are you just unaware?

Yes, but I also know government workers. For every recorded instance of some theft ring, there are undoubtedly thousands of unrecorded instances of a TSA agents (or, really, any non-SES government worker) downplaying things or subtle manipulating situations to get out of paperwork.

I just think the TSA people don't want to be yelled at by their superior officers for the mistake they made. Can you imagine the number of times something like this happens? They are hoping you'll just go away or that it'll never get traced to them or the woman will return the mac.

How this works in India.

When you put your laptop in a bin, the security person puts one of two identical tags (pieces of plastic with identical numbers on them) into the bin, on top of your computer and gives you the other one.

When you finish your patdown/metal detector etc screening and want to take your computer back, you give the security person at the other end of the line your tag, she looks around for the bin with the identical tag, and hands you the contents of the bin and takes your tag back.

Not foolproof/fraudproof, but it seems to work in practice.

Great idea--simple, inexpensive, highly effective when considered relative to its small cost.

Therefore I never expect to see this in a US airport.


Just wait until TSA vendors out the development of it :)

Case in point, TSA paid $47,000 for an app that randomly chose for a passenger to go left or right.

Thanks for my newest startup idea!

my friend recently left his macbook pro at the jaipur airport after they made him change security lines. They held onto the computer in security because he didn't hand them the token, he took off to delhi, called the airport, and someone managed to track his macbook down and give it to a friend who he had authorized. incredibly surprising, but he still had his numbered plastic tag in his pocket by accident.

Yes, I have found this to be very practical, but unfortunately they don't do this at all airports.

Really? I have seen it everywhere I have been - Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Kolkatta.

Perhaps parent was referring to airports outside of India?

I've seen that used in lots of airports in Asia.

Yesterday, didn't happen for me in the new Mumbai T2 domestic terminal.

I must say while doing transit in Delhi I did not see such a system as well.

when you are transiting you are already inside the 'security zone' so perhaps they don't do another security check?

As someone who flies in and out of Delhi all the time, I can assure you that the security check involves such 'tags'. also procedures for security are standardized across all airports, so it is very unlikely that the process is skipped consistently. I encounter this in the tiniest airports in the country (Trivandrum, Leh) .

Interestingly enough, you can carry your Kindle, phone and/or Ipad in your carry on luggage, but not your laptop. Which doesn't make too much sense, but just the kind of loophole bureaucrats designing security systems come up with.

>when you are transiting you are already inside the 'security zone' so perhaps they don't do another security check?

For what it's worth, they certainly did another check last time I went HKG->DEL->KTM

I'd assume it's just a layout issue with some transits.

> Interestingly enough, you can carry your Kindle, phone and/or Ipad in your carry on luggage, but not your laptop

I have carried my ThinkPad X250 on flights to-and-from Mumbai, even used them during flight.

sorry for the confusion but I meant you can carry your kindle etc inside your carry on bag and don't have to take it out and put it into a tray etc. Your laptop for some reason has to be taken out and put into a separate tray (in Indian airports)

Yes I've found that the security procedures at Indian airports I've been to (BOM, BLR) have been quite efficient and feel more commonsense than what we typically deal with here in the US.

I can't attest to their effectiveness though (as a lack of attacks doesn't necessarily mean they're working)

They could hardly be much less effective than US security procedures given that US security procedures catch a low single digit percentage of weapons being taken onto planes.

They do this at Uniqlo when going into the changing rooms if you have to leave your shopping basket.

Simple and effective.

Most Indian supermarkets do something similar for any backpacks etc. that they don't let you take in.

I'm not convinced yet. The scramble to get dressed and snatch your belongings from the pile is already pretty efficient. I'll withhold judgement for now.

DIY by taping a business card to the lid?

Print a big picture of yourself with the word OWNER at the top and tape it to the device.

In a way, it's not the TSA's fault, it's ours for tolerating this insanity. Sometimes I almost wish someone smuggles a bomb through the TSA security line, and successfully storms a plane so we can finally have concrete evidence that those processes only provide annoyance, not security.

The most successful terrorist of all times was Richard Reid, the dude who tried to embark in a plane with explosive material in his shoes. The dude totally failed to storm anything and was busted, now he was successful because since he did this, billions people have been removing their shoes in USian airports.

PS: Richard, if you read HN from your cell, thanks for not smuggling C4 in your butt!

> Sometimes I almost wish someone smuggles a bomb through the TSA security line, and successfully storms a plane so we can finally have concrete evidence that those processes only provide annoyance, not security.

That would just lead to the following reaction: "The TSA is not doing enough yet, we need to implement even more annoyances."

This is what happened with the shoe bomber.

I was on a trip during this instance. I flew out with my shoes on from curb to plane, but a few days later we're all taking off our shoes at every gate, door, security line, and hallway.

Last year they were at 95% failure rate (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/investigation-breaches-u...) I think we already know they don't stop anything apart from phones accidentally left in pockets.

I don't wish for anything like that to happen, but sometimes I wonder what if a terrorist would just detonate a bomb before the security lines, between the waiting people... didn't something similar happen in Belgium?

It's great that we reduced the risk of a highjacking so much in the last decades, with security checkpoints and hardened cockpit doors. But in sum, I don't really feel safer while flying.

That's exactly what happened in Brussels.

"And besides, if we made airplanes completely safe, the terrorists would simply start bombing other places that are crowded. Porn shops, crack houses, titty bars, and gangbangs. You know, entertainment venues."

George Carlin, 1999

Exactly what happened in Brussels. There the bombs were detonated in the check in departures hall before the security area. What happened afterwards is even more absurd. They organized a security check before entering the departures hall, leading to massive 3 hour waiting lines outside the building. Clearly protecting the building is far more important than the security of the people in the waiting line.

For what it's worth, that is what countries with competent security do (Israel, China whenever/wherever there are security concerns), multiple stages of security checks (but of course the earlier ones are designed to minimise queuing to avoid that exact issue).

Typically there will be one security check on the road before cars enter the airport (this can be just a drive-by check for anything suspicious), then either scanner or explosive chemicals check at the entrance doors.

Also, the area in front of the security check is arranged with a large "buffer space" not allowing anyone without a boarding pass to get close to the security check lines (and again with guards looking out for anything suspicious).

As ridiculous as that was I can't blame the politicians for that kind of absurdity. The media would eat them alive if they weren't shown to be 'active' and god forbid something happens again and nothing had changed.

It's a sad situation, modern democracy and twitter have merged into a flurry of overactivity and fake outrage.

I can, a politician without the mettle to stand up to the media is doing their supporters a disservice, the media does not run the country, well, not legally, not yet.

I wish the media would eat them alive for doing stupid things like just relocating the place where people will be blown up to outside the building.

I'm pretty sure twitter and modern democracy have nothing to do with this. Where did that even come from?

> what if a terrorist would just detonate a bomb before the security lines

I gather the idea is that, while a bomb in the security cattle chute might kill hundreds, it's still preferable to a hijacked aircraft which can be used to kill thousands.

Of course the dichotomy is false for all manner of reasons. But that seems to be the underlying concept.

> it's still preferable to a hijacked aircraft which can be used to kill thousands

Not anymore. That ship sailed with 9/11. Passengers aren't going to sit quietly and wait for SWAT to negotiate/rescue at an airport these days.

What actually happened on 9/11 really doesn't help us draw forward conclusions, because the people on these flights had less scope of the big picture. Each operated in a vacuum, it'd be difficult for them to know they were 4 planes.

After that we have a much more reliable track record. The "shoe bomber" was subdued with the assistance of passengers. The "underwear bomber" was subdued with the assistance of passengers.

imho, two things have have genuinely contributed to airbourne security since. One is reinforced cockpit doors. The other is that our collective understanding has changed - it used to be "keep quiet, sweat it out while they negotiate somewhere, and go home safe - just don't draw attention to yourself". Now the 'understanding' is that we fight back or we die.

(And no, the TSA don't really contribute to either of these)

ceejayoz isn't saying the 9/11 flights proved that passengers won't sit quietly anymore. He's saying that, as a result of 9/11, passengers won't sit quietly anymore, which seems to be exactly what you're saying.

You're right. I was trying to reply to a_c_s. Not sure how I managed to fluff that up. But yes, total agreement that the ratio of flights that fought back on 9/11 is a whole lot less relevant than on flights since. Or rather, how we handled the unprecedented vs what we learnt from it.

On 9/11 4 aircraft were hijacked, only 1 had passengers resist. For the sake of argument if we take this as a representative sample, there's only a 25% resist rate: very pretty thin evidence to argue that a fundamental behavior shift has taken place.

> On 9/11 4 aircraft were hijacked, only 1 had passengers resist.

Few had much inkling 9/11 was a terror attack until the second flight hit WTC at 9:03 am, so it's really one of two. The Pentagon flight hit at 9:37 am and passengers weren't aware of the WTC attacks until Barbara Olson's call between 9:16 and 9:26. ~10 minutes isn't much time to process, plan, and react.

Post-9/11, attackers in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_failed_shoe_bomb_attempt and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Airlines_Flight_253 were both subdued rapidly by passengers, as have a variety of disruptive/suspicious non-terror incidents.

That and the likelihood that terrorists will be considerably less likely to bother to attack targets that don't look particularly soft, or at least the general public will think that.

> Sometimes I almost wish someone smuggles a bomb through the TSA security line, and successfully storms a plane so we can finally have concrete evidence that those processes only provide annoyance, not security.

This would result in more security theater, not less. It's the only reaction the bureaucracy can possibly have to it, because that's what we've trained them to do as part of our voting habits and what sells in the media.

We've reached a point where additional security checks further endanger the passengers because terrorists attack the queues before they enter the security check.

What always amuses me is the thought of them actually finding a bomb, what would they do? I mean back in Moscow and the recent Brussels bombs were triggered in such long lines.

I don't think he's reading HN

"Reid filed a lawsuit against the restrictions placed on him in prison which controlled his communications with lawyers and other non-prisoners"


Two weeks ago I traveled in the US and after the scan they first handed me my own computer and then a minute later someone else's MacBook Pro. I said that the Mac isn't mine, and you know what, they didn't believe me. I had to tell them several times that I don't own a Mac and I had to show them that I had already received my own computer. I think they didn't want to look for the owner and just wanted to get rid of the damn thing. I wouldn't be surprised if some people were tempted to give in and say "ok, yes, I admit it, this expensive-looking MacBook is mine". Very careless of the TSA to handle people's belongings this way.

This is probably part of the liability/insurance aspect of it as well. As long as they are in possession of it, they could damage it or lose it. Someone is probably training them to just get rid of it ASAP.


I know airport personnel are very sensitive to unclaimed bags, etc., so they may look with suspicion on a "that's not my bag" claim, though presumably the TSA has just verified that this item is "safe".

Good point but if there is a suspicion that an unclaimed item may pose a security risk, the solution cannot be to push random strangers to take the item.

Having recently flown from the UK to Hong Kong and then on to Manila, I am suddenly struck by how much of an honesty policy we are expected to follow. The idea of tagging the laptop as in India is a step in the right direction, but at no point in my journey was my laptop tagged. It was placed in a bin with all my other valuable possessions (phone, wallet, camera) and it's only through practise that I manage to get through the scanners at the same time as my possessions. At any point after I gave my laptop over to security, someone could have stepped up and claimed it as their own. Security provides exactly zero defense for this, and it's only through vigilence that I've never lost anything yet.

I do understand the need to scan the laptop separately to its bag, but this honesty policy just failed hard. It's a stupid system. The only workaround is to keep everything in sight until you're 100% ready to step through the scanner, and then watch the other side of the belt for all your stuff.

The fact that the TSA handed the laptop to someone other than its rightful owner lands them straight in the blame for this. At the risk of increasing the time required to clear security, a big fuss was made last year that all electronics must have charged batteries so that it can be demonstrated they work (not that this solves the key problem). If the TSA want to personally pick up someone's laptop, they should ask the owner to power it on and enter the password to prove it's theirs before they hand it back. Yes, this also incurs a privacy issue (intentionally defeating your own security system), but as repeatedly demonstrated, border controls have some quite far-reaching powers and can force this anyway.

Edit: also, shame on the security people and the police for dismissing the idea of a crime being committed. Intentional or not, this is theft. As others have commented, it's possible the two women were working together to steal a laptop, but even if it was an honest mistake, it should be investigated as if it were intentional. And the reluctance of the people involved to give case numbers, log it etc. just reeks of 'we lost your bag, thank you for flying Delta Airlines'. I sincerely hope this guy gets at least a check for a new laptop and an apology.

As a "tulip" (opt-out), the forced trust is even worse. You're not even allowed to ask for a pat-down before your things are on the conveyor. I've tried. Usually the timing works out OK, but sometimes it doesn't.

My most infuriating TSA experience was at MIA. I told them I was opting out, and they instructed me to put my things on the conveyor. I did so, then proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. After 10 minutes, during which I repeatedly asked for a "male assist", I had to cave and go through the back-scatter machine because my possessions (laptop, wallet, phone) was sitting unattended on the other side.

I'm very polite to TSA. That was an instance of blatant targeting, and you better believe my the end of those 10 minutes I was not polite. I did some consulting for TSA, and I'm pretty sure I was loudly speaking about "violating the agency's core strategic goal to facilitate legitimate trade and travel" while flipping the double-bird in the backscatter machine.

True story. Surprised I wasn't pulled into a back room.

> Surprised I wasn't pulled into a back room.

For the most part, TSA aren't actual security or law enforcement personnel, they are closer in training and function to low-wage service employees that you would find in the hospitality and retail industries. I'd imagine they meet with this type of hostility with a mix of amusement, annoyance, and general "oh man I can't wait for my shift to be over". As long as the hostility isn't directed at them personally - and sometimes probably if it is- it's just another aspect of the job.

The problem, of course, comes in when under-trained, undereducated TSA employees are expected to perform the actual functions of law enforcement. 99% of their security function is pulling bottles of water, toothpaste, and sunscreen from customers' bags, the other 1% is a crap shoot in terms of a competent reaction.

I once saw a man take what I thought was my bag, and started yelling, "THAT MAN IS TAKING MY PROPERTY!"

Everyone completely ignored me. I realized my mistake about 30 seconds later, but he could have just walked off with my things to disappear onto a plane with a few thousand dollars worth of hardware, my wallet, cellphone, and a spare pair of socks.

> Intentional or not, this is theft

Theft requires intent, so if it wasn't intentional, it wasn't theft by definition (legal or otherwise).

Wha? Taking someone else's property and walking off with it, is pretty intentional. No way that was an accident, or done without knowing what they were doing.

Maybe, but that's not what I said. I said taking something unintentionally is not theft, because theft requires intent. I didn't say anything about the specific situation.

You're right, my bad.

Perhaps I should say 'Intentional or not, it should be treated as theft'

Interestingly (to me) the author used the phrase "on accident". I googled it and found this: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/215/is-it-correct...

As a British English speaker, this stopped me in my tracks. I'm wondering if it had the same effect on the American English readers of this article.

I'm American and it drives me crazy to hear this, but it is regretfully not terribly uncommon.

Heh. Muphry's law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry's_law) demands that you use 'regretfully' instead of 'regrettably' (http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/275034) when chastising someone's language.

It's a regional thing, more common some places than others. Australian English speaker, lived in Chicago for 10 years, it's very common there.

My best guess for the origin was as an opposite to "on purpose".

It's pretty standard usage in the Chicago area of the Midwest.

It's associated with being uneducated and/or working class, at least in Canada. Saying "on accident" here would make you seem very blue-collar, or like a hick.

Do you British English speakers use the phrase "on purpose" ?

It's not proper American English either but it's becoming increasingly common.

Not becoming, I heard and used it as a kid in the sixties.

Amazingly, there is even a paper on the subject:


My guess is that the person who took it was acting with an accomplice, possible the one who caused the distraction.

They would make an exchange in a place where there are no cameras.

The person who took it would have a story ready in case she was challenged.

As for the TSA - they want to pretend that the incident never happened, because it would make them them look bad.

It seems as if the TSA agent may have been in on it. He pulled the laptop off the belt and then handed it to a random woman who 'happened' to be with somebody causing a distraction. She did not protest the gift of the laptop. I find it hard to believe the agent 'happened' to hand it to just the right person.

I surprised there hasn't been more suggestion of this. There's are known classic scams for stealing laptops from security lines - the one I saw demonstrated used two people and a common type of laptop case. The entire context here is suspicious - I would be willing to bet at least pennies that the laptop will never turn up.

Seems a little unlikely that criminals are organising to buy plane tickets or obtain security clearances to steal things on security camera in a place crowded with security personnel when they could steal MacBooks just as easily by, say, wandering into a shared workspace.

If they happen to be flying somewhere, and there's a laptop free for the taking, why not?

Vastly increased chance of being caught?

Especially since if they "happen to be flying somewhere", they're not exactly desperately short of cash.

You can fly 'somewhere' for $29 - airports aren't just for the rich...

That seems like the exact opposite of what the GP is suggesting.

Why buy a ticket when you can print a fake one?


Good luck trying to exploit that 10 year old security hole and not finding yourself under interrogation by someone a bit more menacing than the TSA.

Or, alternatively, if stealing laptops is your thing, you could steal them from the sort of location where people hold the door open for you.

I'm surprised that everyone is focusing on the TSA for giving his computer away (awful), but to me, the even more objectionable thing is that THE WOMAN TOOK A RANDOM COMPUTER and just left with it. Any reasonable person would say "that is not mine", or am I being too naive? And, since she didn't do that, there was clearly malice involved, so the police were also clearly in the wrong, saying that it was an accident and not a crime.

It depends though - a lot of people have MBP's and they all look alike, especially when closed and turned off. She could have taken it in error.

Now, the fact that she didn't leave her own MBP behind is a strong indicator that she didn't have one (or at least didn't have it with her), and that she intentionally took someone elses laptop.

Clearly that was wrong of her, and should not be diminished. The difference is that I would not be surprised that any random person I meet anywhere turns of out to be a thief, but I, and I expect lots of other people, hold government employees to a much higher standard. Especially, as you note, if they then just call the whole thing an accident.

To be fair, MacBook Pros pretty much all look the same on the outside. She probabaly just thought it was hers, stuffed it in her bag, and went to catch her flight.

There's a reason the first thing I do with a new laptop is add about fifteen assorted stickers to it. Very helpful at conferences and such when it comes to keeping laptops distinct.

Exactly! Also: never clean the keyboard or wipe off any coffee or marmalade spills; that way the thief will probably decide they don't want it after all, hand it back and go looking for a shiny, well looked-after one...

I thought that ... So why isn't there a spare MacBook Pro laying around the security line?

Hey, a name game: MacRoulette. You put your laptop through security with a bunch of others and you grab a random one. Practice safe computing and always have a backup.

Bonus points for those who leave a note with their password between screen and keyboard!

That is a fair point, however, in that case, there would be a computer left over on the belt, that the author would've seen when he got out of the scanner.

On a side note: do people not keep their laptops in sleeves (even when in backpacks)?

Are you not required to remove laptops from sleeves while sending through the scanner?

No you don't. As a nomad I fly a lot, and I always leave my laptop in its waterproof bag.

As a settler that travels ocassionaly I am often required to open or even turn on my laptop at the security check.

Where is this? I'ma frequent flyer, and have never once been sled to open my laptop nor have I ever seen anyone asked to do so (outside a short period after 9/11)

Europe, mostly flying to/from Slovenia.

To/from UK I've been asked "back then" when the craze started; in the last 4 years, never once. Which is correct: they are not scanning the laptop but rather the bag which the laptop would obstruct. Once it's out it doesn't really matter how it's packaged.

I'm always surprised that people don't try harder to personalize their laptops. MacBooks all look alike. I put a sticker with my name on it, which has come in handy when in a room with ten other Airs lying about.

Or just plain theft. She is on video taking a computer which isn't hers. That should be prima facia evidence for filing a police report stating "theft".

The question of motive is one for the courts. If they find her, and determine it was an accident, they can not charge her. But for the laptop owner, he has been unlawfully deprived of his property.

Even for the insurance claim alone, the police should have made a report. Otherwise, how is he going to file a claim? "Uh... I think my laptop was stolen. I saw the video, and talked to the police. But neither they nor the TSA would admit on record as to what they saw."

Laws are meant to protect people. But that requires the administrators of the laws to follow the laws, too.

I suppose they should be a little more suspicious but it's not at all ignorant to not know about "theft by finding." The article you linked to describes legal precedents in the 19th and 18th centuries.

Perhaps not by name (I didn't), but I believe it's common knowledge that "finders keepers" isn't law? You're meant to hand things in, or make a reasonable attempt to find the owner, or something along those lines.

It seems common sense that "oh look, it's not nailed down, it must be mine now" isn't kosher - even if we can't name the legal framework behind it.

No, you certainly have to be particularly ignorant not to be aware of the concept of "Theft by finding". Especially if you're a law enforcement officer.

One time I was in a hurry and had forgotten that I had a very valuable foldable knife in my backpack when leaving for a flight, and with no time to spare I had to let them just take it.

At the destination curiosity took over and I had to ask a security guard if it was possible to get it back when I returned, something he confirmed. They handed valuables like that over to lost and found.

This naturally made my day a little better and I didn't think much about it until a few days later when my return flight was. I went to the lost and found, no dice. I asked some security personell on site, and they confirmed the practice, all valuables, including knives, was sent to lost and found, where they logged it and kept it for a month or so.

So the guy who was going to protect us all from terrorist attacks had just stolen it. Reassuring!

In Switzerland's airports they give you a receipt where you can collect it for $10 when you get back. They once confiscated a bike tool of mine. Why they only picked the adjustable wrench out of total 3 potential weapons is beyond me, though.

You could have then gone to the duty free shop and purchased two glass bottles of vodka. Smashed together they would likely make much better weapons.

If you smash two bottles together, do they both break? I would have expected that you'd always end up with one broken bottle, one whole bottle, and (optionally) a fair amount of your own blood.

When two cars collide head-on, does only one of them crumple?

I figure the same effect would apply to two similar glass bottles colliding.

Except a car can crumple almost any amount from zero to tiny cube, while a bottle can only be perfect or shattered. Plus, bottles have strong and weak points, and it seems less likely that you'd bang two equally strong portions of each bottle together; more likely you'd be hitting a strong corner with a weak wall.

This is SO off topic, and SO unimportant.... :-)

Last time I passed through a Swiss airport I was handed a screwdriver to gouge out the contents of my Zippo lighters.

1. Standard rule for traveling: Your bags move along with you. In other words, you only step up to the x-ray machine as your bags are about to pass through. You never, ever, take your eyes off your stuff. It irritates the hell out of the TSA people, but who cares? In this particular case I think he was trying to do this, but forgot to take off his belt. I would have walked through and got patted down next to my bags.

2. Why we continue to put up with this nonsense is beyond me.

I always try to do this, but I also opt-out of the scanning machines. Any way to make them work together? When I opt out I am required to wait outside an undetermined amount of time until they decide I am not going to change my mind and just get me through the x-ray and pat me down. I always try to keep an eye on my stuff, but it's impossible at times. No problem so far, but I worry something will happen.

When I opt out, I keep my stuff next to me, or take it off the machine and wait for the TSA drone to show up. It doesn't go in until I'm going with the drone who's going to assault me.

I've tried this both ways: putting my bags on the belt before opting out, and holding my bags, opting out, and only placing them on the belt when an agent comes to escort me.

Both approaches have gotten me yelled at.

I have noticed that in Indian airports passengers are given a numbered token and a duplicate placed in the bin with the laptop before it passes through the x-ray machine. After passing through the security scan the passenger has to present the token to the agents who will then match it with the one in the bin and only then hand it to him/her.

I can't understand why TSA won't follow such a simple scheme that greatly improves the incidents like OP's.

I've seen videos of security screening lines hundreds of meters long at one of Chicago's airports, this process would only make them longer.

I recommend that you take a flight to LAX/MCO, then a day at Disney and compare TSA's procedures for getting folks through a line compared to Disney.

The single best action that the TSA could take is to hire a Disney staffer to consult on how to move large numbers of people through a line as there is much to be improved on moving folks through TSA screenings at a quicker pace without lowering the quality of screenings.

I am not sure about that. The long lines are due to more fundamental problems with the TSA in general. Shaving a few extra seconds for each passenger with a laptop is not going to solve the problem.

Ya I agree, I was just making a comment that implementing this token process would make things even worse

For me, there is a crime. Even if it is in good faith, TSA took the MacBook, then lost it. It is the same as if they broke it by accident. If they can not recover it quickly, they should reimburse it because what happened is their full responsability.

Man, I am going to be paranoid as f%!# from now on, when going through security. If my laptop disappeared, it would screw me over pretty good. I mean, not in the sense that I'd lose anything that is literally irreplaceable, (well, not irreplaceable AND particularly valuable) but it would be a huge time and energy sink to recover from that.

Last time I lost a laptop, was when somebody stole my laptop bag out of my truck (I forgot to lock it one night while I Was in Barnes & Noble having a coffee). That was a double-whammy, because the USB drive with my backups was in the same bag. :-(

The only saving grace then was that most of my really important data is actually in "the cloud" somewhere (eg, code at GitHub) and that I had an older backup of most of my files on another computer that I bought and used temporarily after I spilled coffee on my old laptop (it started working again after it had a few days to dry out, so I switched back to it).

Anyway, after reading this, I think I'm going to go get another 1TB USB drive, and start keeping a set of backups that I leave at home, instead of carrying around in my laptop bag. That or start pushing stuff to S3 or something. Code is already in GitHub, but there's a lot of other stuff I'd hate to lose.

Crashplan. $99 per year.

It's actually just $59/year. Seems totally worth it to me.

I agree. I used to handle backups manually but wasn't very diligent with them. Crashplan works nicely with Linux, and that's now one less mental burden to care about.

Except if you have a bit of data you'll spend a few years uploading it. Their servers are slow. Only getting like 5-20Mbit/s, mostly slower here in Europe.

I use Arq - I can choose where I upload it and I can have multiple destinations.

Arq does not offer storage on the cheapest plan(I have no idea what you are paying for then), and even the $120/year plan only includes 250GB of storage. If I signed up with Crashplan I would upload literally all of my data to it - so 4TB of personal backups then.

Arq is actually a standalone (incremental encrypted) backup tool, though they are now also offering their own storage. Arq can be used with Amazon S3, Dropbox, OneDrive, sftp, Google Cloud Storage, etc.

E.g. I use Arq with my Office 365 subscription that costs me Euro 1.38 per month (four year academic discount) for 1TB.

Arq only runs on Windows and OS X though. I would prefer to use something open-source, that runs on Linux. I won't be renewing my Crashplan subscription when it expires.

I use Crashplan, but it's a bit rubbish. Backblaze is much better if you don't need to use it on Linux.

What issues have you had with Crashplan, out of curiosity? One thing about Backblaze is that they do not keep backups of files that do not exist on your computer, and that you need to connect your computer to the internet at least once every 90 days (or was it 30?)

The desktop interface is unpleasant and clunky. The web interface is significantly worse than Backblaze, and they clearly don't care about the home product as compared to their enterprise product (which I get the impression is kept much more up to date).

I've also found it occasionally forgets my encryption key for unknown reasons and just silently stops backing up. I get an email about it after a few days, but it's a bit of a rubbish solution.

I also like the BackBlaze team - they share lots with the community and they're open about how they work. CrashPlan feels like more of an enterprisey black hole by comparison. Their blog (https://blog.code42.com/) is one of those weird things that feels more like it's being automatically generated by a Markov chain than written by a human.

On the other hand, CrashPlan does work. That's more than I can say about a lot of the solutions that I tried a few years back (looking at you, Mozy).

Crashplan requires you to connect your computer once every six months. I found this out the hard way when I got a notice that I had 5 days to back up all of my files from an old computer elsewhere before they erased them.

Just wanted to clarify this policy.

CrashPlan requires a device to connect to it's backup at least once within a 6 month period. This is to ensure the integrity of the data we're storing. Part of CrashPlan’s ability to maintain the backup health and integrity relies upon regular connection from the device. CrashPlan is able to routinely perform maintenance on the backup by comparing checksums between both device and CrashPlan Central. If you are unable to connect the device to the backup within a 6 month period, you can also perform a restore from the backup as this qualifies as recent backup activity.

What if there was corruption on the local file system, what would happen then?

Also, what happens to files that were deleted from the local file system. I was under the impression that they would remain indefinitely available to restore.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

On linux just use Backblaze B2 [0] and Duplicity [1]

  [0]: https://www.backblaze.com/b2/cloud-storage.html
  [1]: http://duplicity.nongnu.org/

I'm sure they will tell us that this never would have happened if only their budget was tripled.

It's odd how the TSA escapes primary blame in the OP and these comments. This blending-into-the-environment is part of what makes these half-baked authorituhs so insidious.

The author had an agreement that the TSA would borrow his laptop for a few minutes and then return it in identical condition. The TSA failed to live up to their duties. Regardless of what happened to the laptop while in their care, the straightforward way to make this right is for TSA to reimburse this person for a new laptop. This is not a new concept - it's called civil liability.

If the TSA would like, they can try to reform their operating procedures so this happens less. But that doesn't change the fact that they're still responsible for this instance. We don't let a thief keep his bounty by promising to not steal in the future.

TSA should keep a link between face & scanned ticket. They should have been able to easily contact that gate & stop the "gift" receiver from boarding their plane.

If there is no connection between face & scanned ticket, then this is a pretty serious gap of the TSA security system.

Without it, how can they look at recorded video & make connections to certain passengers?

I'm sure they have one. But they're probably not using it to find lost laptops.

Whilst the TSA agents should be taking more care to ensure valuables are returned to the correct person, there are several agents working on a single line. The person who saw him place the computer into the x-ray would be different from the person handing items back so it's not all that surprising that didn't know who it belonged to and was just assuming people were being honest.

Any frequent flyer will know return of items from security lines effectively operates on a honesty policy. Things are free for the taking after the x-ray and if they take your bag aside they frequently call out 'who's bag is this?' or similar. It's important you keep an eye on things.

In this case he totally forgot his computer and lost it. If the situation was immediately after security the TSA refused to give it back to him as someone else claimed it was theirs then it would clearly be the TSA's fault but in this situation I feel he should share some of the blame.

If the government decides they need to take my stuff away from me to check it, they better make sure that I get it back correctly. In this case the TSA handed the laptop to someone other than the owner.

If this happens, clearly the process has a defect, and needs to be corrected, or, even better in this case, abandoned completely.

Don't blame the victim.

>Don't blame the victim.


>If the government decides they need to take my stuff away from me to check it, they better make sure that I get it back correctly.

Absolutely! But if you keep expecting them to do that without being careful and paying attention to your own stuff guess who foots the bill? This could've been all mitigated by OP being slightly more careful. Why do I say this? Because it's easier to ask someone to pay attention to their stuff than it is to ask the government to change its practices (bureaucracy etc). It's not victim blaming, it's about finding the most practical solution to prevent this problem from happening again.

Obviously being careful with your belongings, as with your personal safety, makes a lot of sense to avoid harm.

However, clearly, if someone steals your things, or attacks you, it is irrelevant if you did or did not take care of your stuff: The blame lies with the perpetrator of this action, not with the victim.

That they forgot their laptop at the x-ray machine, does not entitle anyone else to just take it.


> I feel he should share some of the blame.

is wrong.

I don't feel that he should share some of that blame.

There's the line about malice vs stupidity. But on the flip side there's an interesting aggregation of circumstances.

Woman makes disturbance, distracting passengers, and multiple TSA agents so they're all dealing with her, not working the line.

Man puts his MacBook Pro in X-ray. It comes out the other side and a TSA agent, not distracted by incident, hands it straight to another woman who it's later shown was with the woman making the disturbance before the checks, but is not paying attention to her now, and doesn't seem surprised to be handed a laptop that's not hers, and promptly wanders off without her 'partner'.

That seems more than a little coincidental.

Having re-read it I now realise it seems the TSA immediately whisked it out of the scanner and handed it to the wrong person before he even had a chance to get through the scanner and look about for it.

My initial interpretation was it was sitting there available for him to pick-up but he forget about it and walked off, the woman later (falsely) claiming it. Hence my initial comment.

So I agree does seem a little too convenient to be coincidental.

I've found the TSA employee folks.

>I feel he should share some of the blame

And he tried to get it back immediately. Would you blame him for that too?

Temporary work around - get a TSA compliant laptop bag. Yes, it means doing something different to accommodate them, but in the longer term it saves you this pain.

And convince the TSA to do what we do at Indian airports:

plinkplonk 9 minutes ago

How this works in India. When you put your laptop in a bin, the security person puts one of two identical tags (pieces of plastic with identical numbers on them) into the bin, on top of your computer and gives you the other one. When you finish your patdown/metal detector etc screening and want to take your computer back, you give the security person at the other end of the line your tag, she looks around for the bin with the identical tag, and hands you the contents of the bin and takes your tag back. Not foolproof/fraudproof, but it seems to work in practice. reply

get a TSA compliant laptop bag

No good. TSOs essentially reserve the right to void or override any policy, at any time, for any reason, with no warning in advance. Many will simply tell you that no such policy exists or ever has existed. And there is no appeal of the decisions made by the people at the checkpoint: either you do what they tell you right there, even if it contradicts policy (even if it contradicts federal law -- the TSA is being sued over that very point by a guy who claims they routinely violate disability-accommodation laws), or you don't fly.

Which means there is no such thing as "a TSA compliant laptop bag", only "a laptop bag that a TSO might, a majority of the time, if you're lucky and they're in a good mood, let you send through the x-ray without removing your laptop".

I have mixed feelings about TSA: the people who work for TSA at the checkpoints have always been polite, which is good. The bad thing is that I feel like security is really weak in the USA. In comparison, in India, everyone was searched on the flights I took, and a personal search seems much more effective.

Re: stolen MacBook Pro: ouch! I have several older Linux laptops, so when I travel I grab a laptop that is old and expendable. Since I always encrypt my disk and most of what I do is in bitbucket, or on a cloud service, losing a laptop would just be an inconvenience. I find it more relaxing to not have things of high value with me when I travel.

I don't really understand the importance of this story. Sure it's annoying and a huge inconvenience for the OP and I'm genuinely sorry for him. But it's a lost laptop.

How often does this happen? Can you think of a way of changing the process that would result in a net benefit for everyone?

If this story was "TSA gave away my diamond necklace" or "Nightclub cloakroom hands bag to wrong customer" we would recognise this story for what it is - one of those things. Backup your files, kids, keep an eye on your possessions at all times, get insurance, and don't get too attached to a piece of metal.

> Can you think of a way of changing the process that would result in a net benefit for everyone?

That one's easy: Getting rid of the TSA alltogether.

No screening at all? That'd certainly be interesting.

For starters it wouldn't lower overall security by all that much[0]

[0] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/investigation-breaches-u...

So if JFK Airport removed TSA and just let people walk on to the plane, would you board one? I sure as hell wouldn't.

I don't know what I don't know about international security. I don't have access to the NSA and CIA files about international terrorism. Sure, some of it is overplayed for certain people's agendas, but it's very clearly an actual risk that needs actual solutions. The TSA may not be the best one, but if it was removed, it would need to be replaced by something that would probably end up looking very similar.

Why? What about busses, trains, boats and so many others busy places. I don't see any TSA there, and I don't see anything happening there.

I'm also pretty convinced that the liquid restrictions are purely for commercial reasons, as you can still bring enough liquid, separated over small bottles and multiple people if needed. Afterwards you can simply buy a bigger container in the airport itself...

> So if JFK Airport removed TSA and just let people walk on to the plane, would you board one?


Do you think people aren't trying to attack planes, or that the TSA has zero effectiveness in stopping those people?

The latter. The TSA screening process (a recent report had them pegged at 5% effectiveness[0]) is next to worthless and itself creates a security hazard/potential attack vector. The TSA screening process is also entirely reactionary -- shoe removal only became a thing after an attacker tried to hide explosives in their shoes.

If the TSA was pro-active and had a reasonable degree of effectiveness, then I'd be more willing to put up with it. As it stands, the $85 pre-check fee is more of a "pay us money and we won't actively put you at risk for no benefit" fee.

[0] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/investigation-breaches-u...

How would you make it more effective?

You could remove the TSA and let airlines do their own security checks at the gate. Airlines really don't want their planes hi-jacked.

I don't think anyone would be happy with 'British Airways Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Services, plc.' and friends running surveillance, SIGINT and other spy operations to gather threat intelligence. And, unfortunately, it seems like intelligence-led prevention is the only real way to stop terrorism, detection and attempts at interdiction close to the target are going to fail the same way the TSA fails, due to the vanishingly small number of actual terrorists.

> And, unfortunately, it seems like intelligence-led prevention is the only real way to stop terrorism

I wouldn't expect British Airways to do its own SIGINT but there's no reason why it can't source that info from the current supplier. (And BA already collects the passenger info on the US government's behalf.)

Either way, no one is proposing to tear up the Do Not Fly list, risibly inaccurate as it might be.

Surely that would just defer the problem? Plus, the airlines now have to buy all their own equipment, train their own staff. At the moment, they are 'outsourcing' their airport security to the TSA.

I suppose they could each choose which security checks they are going to carry out, but how would they choose? Based on recommendations from something that looks like the TSA?

It's not clear to me that the airlines would want this responsibility, or would do a better job at it than the TSA.

The airlines actually care about the safety of their planes, because failures have a significant impact in the marketplace. TSA staff don't care to anything like the same extent. If they screw up, they probably get more money and more power, not less.

I suspect you'd get better results if you moved the responsibility to people who care more, and away from people who care less.

Some US airports have opted out of TSA screening, including San Francisco. You could let airlines opt out or work with airport authorities instead. The best solution will probably depend to a large extent on airport layouts.

They would have a serious conflict of interest between getting people on the plane ASAP and checking safety. I already see this when staff are lenient with checking passports and boarding passes.

On top of this, most airlines have terrible customer service, so there's no reason to believe they would provide a better service than the TSA.

The TSA clearly has many faults, and nor can it take all the credit for the lack of terrorist attacks on US flights. However, it has to get some of the credit. It's wishful thinking to imagine this is a simple problem with a simple fix. If you're going to get rid of the TSA, you're going to have to convince the majority of travellers that the extra convenience is not going to come at the expense of safety.

It would be interesting to know how the TSA-free airports are doing. How many passengers is San Francisco losing, or gaining? Given the widespread view of the TSA's lack of competence (which has been easily demonstrated by tests), I suspect it's not losing any.

> most airlines have terrible customer service

It varies. I've been through lots of airline-run security checks outside the USA and they've all been fine.

> Surely that would just defer the problem? Plus, the airlines now have to buy all their own equipment, train their own staff. At the moment, they are 'outsourcing' their airport security to the TSA.

An obvious solution: outsource to not-the-TSA. Say, local security contractors at the airports they operate at, possibly pooling resources with other airlines if there's economies of scale to be had there. Or perhaps a security company employing former security personnel from Israel's airports? I hear they've done pretty well by focusing on the human element.

> I suppose they could each choose which security checks they are going to carry out, but how would they choose?

I'm sure private security companies have plenty of suggestions for things they can upsell you on. There's all kinds of profit motives that simply aren't there in the public sector. This allows some diversification as well: Those interested in flying 'safely' can be swayed by airline X's advertisements about their thorough security procedures, and those not interested in security theater can be swayed by airline Y's advertisements about their no-hassle boarding.

> Based on recommendations from something that looks like the TSA?

Goodness no. At a 5% effectiveness rate, I suspect you'd have better odds winging it.

> It's not clear to me that the airlines would want this responsibility, or would do a better job at it than the TSA.

I'm sure they don't want the responsibility. Responsibility sucks. This article can be read as the TSA avoiding any of that nasty stuff! But the more relevant question is if foisting responsibility for security upon airlines would be effective.

As for doing better than the TSA: That's a low bar, so why not try such a scheme? Best case scenario, it works, clearing the whole issue right up. Worst case scenario: Nothing of value was lost, and we can try something else.

> Goodness no. At a 5% effectiveness rate, I suspect you'd have better odds winging it.

This is bad statistics. The TSA 'failed to detect 95% of airport breach tests' does not mean it fails to prevent 95% of would-be attacks. Just by being there, it prevents some attacks - those people who consider it too difficult to get round the TSA, or those who end up coming up on the NSA's radar as they research ways to do so.

Saying we could just "throw it all away because what's the worst that can happen" is much like a developer saying "let's do a complete rebuild" and we all know how that usually turns out.

People are also attacking security check lines with very high effectivity-

"Very high" is stretching it a bit. There have been around 130 fatalities in terrorist attacks in airport terminals since 2000 - LA (2002), Madrid (2006), Pakistan (2014), Turkey (2014), Moscow (2015) and Belgium (2016).

>So if JFK Airport removed TSA and just let people walk on to the plane, would you board one? I sure as hell wouldn't.

I would argue that more people would take short flights.

> So if JFK Airport removed TSA and just let people walk on to the plane, would you board one?


Many smaller airports and regional carriers don't have TSA now. I've flown dozens of times between Harrison, AR and Memphis, TN without going through so security. Many of those times I declared a firearm... and they handed it back to me to take to the plane.

At CDG airport a few weeks ago we encountered a straightforward process I'd not seen before – items going through the screening are associated with your boarding pass. It had no significant effect on the speed of the procedure, and it provides accountability for objects. I don't fully understand why it's not standard practice.

Especially since it's a blatant security lapse: Put something through the x-ray, leave it there, as the staff is used to things waiting around for a while, and then walk away as quickly as possible before the bomb you left in it [1] blows up the checkpoint and everyone waiting. They're providing a convenient way of dropping off explosives and leaving them that reduces the chance of a guard noticing you intentionally leaving something behind and reacting.

Then again, we know very well by know that these checks does not have much to do with actual security.

[1] I have no reason to believe they'd react to a bomb with sufficient urgency to stop anyone from walking off. I've left bottles of liquid in many times (by accident), and they don't usually notice. They have noticed my sons game console (was bringing it with us to his grandparents and didn't think to take it out of the carry-on), but it's not like they reacted with any urgency - they just put it aside and waited for us to come over and point at it before dealing with it.

The difference is that the TSA uses the power of the state to compel you to give up your stuff. Night clubs and other private entities have to compete with each other so there is incentive to help the customer.

The one odd assertion is that they "gave" his laptop to some random person. I've never seen a TSA person even touch people's stuff except to do a manual inspection and even then they ask permission.

Assuming this story is on the up-and-up and isn't some kind of prank, the writer should call the police and report a theft. Secondly, call a lawyer and pursue a quest to recover property cost and associated damages--business losses, legal fees, time lost, etc. Also, he should report the loss to his insurance company.

Steal something from an airport store and I'd imagine they'll find you

Someone in the comments there just created this clever script that causes your laptop to make a racket if it hasn't been returned to you by some number of seconds:


I don't like how the author fusses about someone else who was arguable also similarly being abused by the TSA:

"Behind me, I could hear a woman making a big scene because her “flight [was] at 4:15,” and her gigantic bag was clearly never going to fit on the airplane. She claimed multiple times that “the lady” told her she could bring it through security."

There is a good chance that the person who took the laptop was acting with an accomplice, and that the woman making the scene was involved.

So you actually think there are gangs that take flights just to steal stuff during baggage check?

Why wouldn't there be? Flights can be cheap, and security requires you to show up hours in advance, but there's no limit to the number of times you can cycle through security lines looking for targets.


Every time I've ever flown, my boarding pass is marked up by a TSA agent before I go through the metal detector/body scanner/X-ray belt area. I think it'd be incredibly suspicious if you left and then back through, multiple times even more so.

I've been through security multiple times before (my daughter left her book in one of the groundside restaurants) and nobody cared. Anecdotal I know, but n=1 is better than n=0

I did this flying internationally. origin to OHare, OHare to philly, philly to London. Had hours to burn in Philly. Took a wander outside for a smoke, couldn't figure out how to get back inside (the layout seemed like it'd make plenty sense in a car, less so on foot, and a trainline blocked the obvious approach). So asked a nice policeman, who directed me.

Once we figured out that it wasn't actually difficult, we repeated once more before we left. Horrible habit I know, but on long flights/connections you spend near on a whole day "airside". It's pretty simple to just explain why you wanted to nip outside for some fresh* air.

Print multiple copies. The boarding pass checker has no way to authenticate them so you could even make fake boarding passes. Going through different checkpoints would not be noticed. Even going through the same checkpoint probably wouldn't be noticed.

If you're a smoker, then not so much. In order to smoke at Heathrow, for instance, I have to go landside (sometimes through passport control) and back, with no problem, sometimes more than once if a flight is delayed for a long time.

It's quite possible and likely that the two women were just opportunistic thieves, or at least the one who took the laptop was. Opportunitistic theft is not at all uncommon among our species.

If they can pull off an improvised act like that on such short notice, they are professional con artists.

So why are they stealing laptops in an airport? They wouldn't: high risk, low reward.

The way I see it, it was simply an error on the part of the TSA, as discussed countless times in other comments.

Yeah, I can't rule out some more elaborate con but at least from the story as it's told here, it sounds like all of these folks were in a hurry, the author wasn't paying attention and didn't make sure he had his laptop before moving on, TSA handed it to the wrong person, and that person thought "ooh, score!"

Or maybe she didn't realize for a while and by that point, a combination of laziness and desire to keep this shiny, luxury model computer that had accidentally ended up in her possession led her to just hold onto it.

I think the number of people who will decide to keep something they find (dropped wallet, misplaced laptop, etc) is much higher than the number who would actively go out of their way to steal something. The end result is the same but I think psychologically, it takes effort to go out and steal whereas it takes effort to track down an owner while keeping a found item just requires apathy and/or greed.

It's pretty diabolical that they managed to make the guy leave his belt on, to make their entire conspiracy work.

This sucks, but I can totally seeing it happen. Surprised it doesn't happen more often.

I'm not one for snarky comments, but when it comes to the TSA there are so many to make.

Maybe the TSA director will help you out with his $90k in bonuses he got (for who knows what) - http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/23/479242102/...

Or, maybe it's part of their broader effort to boost their pre-check enrollment (http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-tsas-precheck-conundrum-1412...) - pay us $85 and we won't steal your stuff - promise!

I know - that's what my link story was about.

Let's be clear: The TSA was an active facilitator in the theft of this person's private property and failed to provide a remedy for their actions. It wasn't an accident, it wasn't innocent and it was not made right. That's the bottom line.

Never knew guest mode would allow access to Safari only. Probably worth enabling for incidents like these.



Well, maybe it's a new idea for a song like "United Breaks Guitars"? :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

Things used to be a lot worse when people without tickets were allowed all the way through to the boarding gates. This, of course, was pre-9-11. Laptops would get stolen all the time by criminals just going through security, sometimes in pairs and one would slow down the line while the person in front would take a random laptop and gtfo.

In some senses, the security is better by disallowed non-passengers from going through security checkpoints. I feel bad for the owner, and I hope he/she gets back his/her laptop, but I doubt the TSA will just write a check unfortunately. They simply don't care.

> Luckily, I am meticulous about encryption and about backing up, so I don’t think I lost any data nor gave anyone else access.

What is the OP's setup (and what are some alternatives), that he is so sure this was the case?

Here is what I do:

1) Enable disk encryption (System Preferences -> Security and Privacy -> FileVault)

2) Regular backups with TimeMachine to a USB drive. It your machine is lost you can use this to restore everything back to how it was pretty quickly. By default TimeMachine backups aren't encrypted, so make sure you check the "Encrypt backups" option when enabling it.

3) As well as using "Find my iPhone" (which requires the device to be connected to a network), I have a message with my contact details on the Lock and Login screens (System Preferences -> Security and Privacy -> General -> Show a message when the screen is locked).

4) Even if the disk is encrypted it can still be wiped, reinstalled and sold on to unsuspecting buyers. You can set a firmware password which will prevent that: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204455

(I had a Mac stolen a couple of years ago and as soon as I got a new device and got home I was back up and running as if nothing had happened. A few months later I even recovered the device - the police carried out a raid and found a number of devices, and contacted Apple for the owners based upon the serial numbers)

Something I've never tested -- how does TimeMachine handle things like a locally installed Apache instance somewhere on the primary disk? If I lose my laptop and do a restore to a new machine does it set things back as-if nothing had changed?

You can have TimeMachine either recover the user data, programs, or the whole system. It's not a full system image, but so far it's been working fine. Migrated across 4 or 5 machines using TM.

Time Machine backup in Mac OS X is arguably the most rock solid consumer-friendly backup and restore solution. It's one of the big reasons I stick with Mac.

FileVault full disk encryption is also pretty solid. I won't speak to its efficacy against the most notorious adversaries (e.g. Governments) but it will reliably thwart any adversary most people would ever actually care about.

Apple's firmware passwords seem to work well, though I have no idea how robust they are. It's just a damn shame it's nowhere as easy to set up as the iPhone equivalent. (Just turn on Find My iPhone and that hardware is activation-locked to your iCloud account.)

Sounds like the distraction was on purpose so that the theft of the laptop could occur. Perhaps TSA agent was in on the issue & the reason they're saying it's not a crime.

I have a "TSA Friendly" laptop bag (it even has a stitched on label). The laptop pocket unzips to the bottom of the compartment and folds along the bottom, so the laptop is still in its pocket, but there is nothing but fabric and foam between it and the belt. The metal parts of the bag as well as anything else metal I might be carrying are all folded to he other side and don't shield (electromagnetically) the laptop.

They did this to me at LAX once about 12-13 years ago. Oddly enough, the man they handed my computer to was Johnny Cochrane (the lawyer that got OJ out of a murder conviction). They were so starstruck (telling him "Here's your computer Mr. Cochrane!"). Thankfully, he said, "Oh, that's not mine," just as I walked up and I was able to get it unlike the OP.

Just an fyi, even if you don't book the ticket yourself, you can still go on the airline's website or call in and have your known traveler number added to your reservation to receive your pre-check status. (laptop never leaves your bag which probably would have prevented the author's issue in the first place as he was used to using pre-check)

My take away from this... Put your name and number on your valuables just in case someone picks them up by accident.

You can put any message you want on your macbooks login/lock screen. Mine contains contact information just in case I loose it. Might actually pay off to put a sticker on it as well.

Two sided sword. If the person that took the laptop is actually a thief he/she conveniently knows you're currently not at home upon boot. Since this theft requires at least some criminal energy (I guess there's an outside shot of just being a grab and run) I wouldn't put it past the thief to immediately loot your home or have an accomplice do so.

Use a work address, email address, and a cell phone number. Agreed that home address is a bad idea, just like on luggage tags.

That would require the finder/thief to be in a position to exploit that knowledge, something that is fairly unlikely for the general case. There are easier ways to figure out if I'm home (ring the door).

If you're concerned about that, just have a dedicated email address on the screen.

I usually put a friend's email/phone on my phone's lock screen. That way they actually can contact someone (since I just lost the means to do so). I hope a potential robber wouldn't take this as info of a good target, though.

The ability to add a lock screen message is under 'security & privacy' on System Preferences. I feel like that's not the right place to put it, but I don't know what would be.

Doesn't do much good when someone making $13/hour[1] hands your stuff off to someone else without a second glance.

[1] http://work.chron.com/tsa-officers-make-16008.html

I doesn't solve the problem flat out, but it does make it much easier for an honest person to figure out what to do next. Not everybody is comfortable opening up a strangers computer to poke around for contact info, especially if they're also worried that they might be in trouble for having the computer in the first place.

Even more so if it's handed in to lost and found. Those guys are definitely not going to do forensics. Come to think if it, there's a good chance that the laptop is in the lost and found of whatever airport that woman was flying to, logged in as "PC (Other)".

What's the problem? Everyone acted nice, gave all the info needed / incident number. 2.5 days is way, way not enough time to wait for action / response.

If author is worked up cause incompetence exists and accidents happen (or crimes/scams happen) then life is going to be disappointing to them.

I made a TurboTax like website to help make a claim against the TSA in this situation: http://TSAClaim.com, it will render a completed SF-95 form that you email to the TSA.

How can they single out his computer without immediately singling out him too? There is simply no point in treating the device suspicious and letting the owner potentially leave the place.

No mention of insurance. The laptop may be covered under homeowners or renters insurance. These cover personal property even when they are outside your residence.

My biggest fear of flying. Do those TSA approved bags really "work"? Meaning that you don't have to remove your laptop

It is possible not to remove your laptop from backpack on TSA. Some backpacks open like a clamshell so xray has no obstructions.

What would stop the officer to give the backpack to 'some random woman'?

Next time, tell them there's a bomb in the laptop and the person who took it is your accomplice. They'll find it.

If you truly hate security theatre in the USA, boycott travel. Tell your boss, your family, your friends that you can't travel because you refused to be treated poorly by a parasitic and incompetent organization.

But, if your paycheck is more important to you than restoring diginity, the (governmental) terrorists have won :)

I think the opposite. Terrorists and the Government have won if you prevent yourself from doing/saying something because of what they do/did. Another example would be if you stop talking about some things online because you think that they scan everything you post and can link it to your personal identity.

    > It’s been 2.5 days
meh. Government moves slowly.

Also it happened on a Friday evening and he posted this on a Monday afternoon, so it's basically only been half a day.

>meh. Government moves slowly.

Looks like there is a market to disrupt Faster-Government-as-a-Service.

And also a market for "Separation of power for beginners" courses :)

Typo: not -> now

My laptop went missing when I sent it for servicing for several days and no one seemed to know where it was including FedEx and the company I sent it to. Turns out, it was the intelligence community and specifically Tailored Access Operations (TAO) hacking my laptop and preparing to ruin/sabotage my life. If you happen to mysteriously get your laptop back, make sure you look for potential evidence of tampering.

Alternative title: Guy forgets laptop at security checkout and blames TSA for his stupidity.

> I emerged from the scanner without any problems, collected my 2 bags and incidentals, and proceeded into Terminal 5. After awhile, I looked into my backpack and realized that I didn’t have my computer. My heart skipped a beat! I turned around and rushed to the security area.

Further down the article:

> After a few minutes, he found me coming through the security line, and sure enough, my computer was not with my bags when I retrieved my belongings. Moving further back in time, we watched as a TSA agent pulled my computer off of the belt as soon as it came out of the machine—there is an area where agents can remove things from the belt before passengers have access to belongings. He moved my computer to a holding area immediately behind the x-ray machine. And then, we watched as the computer was inspected, after which it was handed back… to a random woman. The woman took my computer and left the security area.

He completely forgot his laptop, moved away from the security check and only later figured out he was missing his laptop.

With hundreds of people moving through those checkpoints, I do not blame the TSA agents for handing stuff out to completely random people.

He forgot his laptop, because it wasn't on the belt when he came out of the scanner. They gave it away before he had a chance to forget it. The couple of minutes it took him to realise that he didn't actually all of his stuff off the belt (even though, he did, since the laptop wasn't there any more) wouldn't have made a difference since somebody else has taken it beforehand anyway.

Especially if you're used to being able to leave your laptop in your bag - you fall back to routine very easily. I want to fault him for walking off and leaving it, but I can also imagine myself easily doing the same.


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