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Risk-Based Passenger Screening Could Make Air Travel Safer

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University of Illinois professor Sheldon H. Jacobson

Treating all airline passengers and baggage as high-risk threats "makes the air system more vulnerable to successful attacks," says University of Illinois professor Sheldon H. Jacobson.

Credit: L. Brian Stauffer / University of Illinois

University of Illinois researchers recently examined the benefit of matching passenger risk with security assets and found that intensive screening of all airline passengers makes the system less secure by overtaxing security resources.

"A natural tendency, when limited information is available about from where the next threat will come, is to overestimate the overall risk in the system, [which] actually makes the system less secure by over-allocating security resources to those in the system that are low on the risk scale relative to others in the system," says Illinois professor Sheldon H. Jacobson. He says with security resources devoted to too many low-risk passengers, those resources are less able to identify high-risk passengers. "The cost of such a system is prohibitive, and it makes the air system more vulnerable to successful attacks by sub-optimally allocating security assets," Jacobson says.

The researchers developed three algorithms dealing with risk uncertainty in the passenger population. They then ran simulations to demonstrate how the algorithms, applied to a risk-based screening method, could estimate risk in the overall passenger population. The researchers found that risk-based screening increases the overall expected security. "The ideal situation is to create a system that screens passengers commensurate with their risk," Jacobson says.

From University of Illinois
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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