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Security & Data Breach Expert:
Airport Security Badges Often Go Missing!

Computer Forensics Expert / Data Security Articles

Lost Airport Employee Security Badges Is Common
Recent reports have found thousands of airport security badges are on the missing across the United States. The badges are known as Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges. Generally, SIDAs allow airport employees to enter securely locked doors throughout the airport. In addition they are used to identify a person as an employee of the airport. The badges are only given to employees who have been thoroughly screened as they provide secure access to secure areas of airports.

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All airport employees who work inside secure areas of an airport facility must have an SIDA badge. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a SIDA badge allows access to secure areas including: baggage handling, loading areas, taxiways, runways and boarding gates. Before a badge is issued, the employee must meet both TSA background check requirements and local background requirements.

As part of the process, TSA performs a security threat assessment for the potential employee. The TSA determines if the employee has any immigration, terrorist or federal warrant concerns. The applicant is also screened using the Terrorist Screening Database.

Local requirements usually include a fingerprint check and background screening conducted by the airport. Airports may require an employee to complete additional documentation or training before they issue a badge. For instance, the Ted Stevens Anchorage Alaska International Airport requires all SIDA applicants attend a training course and watch an SIDA video before a badge is issued. After the badge is issued, each individual airport determines which areas SIDA badge holders have access.

Airport Badges and Uniforms Go Missing

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia has admitted more than 1,400 badges were lost or stolen over an approximately two year period.

Badges aren’t the only thing that disappears. The Dallas / Fort Worth Airport in Texas reports airline uniforms also disappear. In one case, an entire FedEx pilot's uniform disappeared. In other instances, TSA badges and even a federal flight deck officer's credentials and badge disappeared. The federal flight deck officer’s credentials allow a pilot to carry a gun on a plane.

Certainly missing badges are a security concern. Employees with badges tend to be overlooked and less scrutinized. This presents serious security concerns for airports as terrorists could potentially move around an airport undetected, thus compromising security.

Airport Multi-Layer Security

However, Airports don’t rely on SIDAs alone. Most airports have multiple layers of security. Just because someone has a badge, doesn’t mean they can access all parts of an airport.

Airports using multiple layers are increasingly using biometrics, which require a finger print or whole hand print to grant access to secure areas. Other airports may require a Personal Identification Number or PIN to gain access.

The Security Risk

Tailgating, which is also referred to as “Piggybacking”, is the act of following someone through an open door or gate. Tailgating is probably the largest security risk in airports where badges have gone missing. Each person passing through a secure door should have the door close behind them and without anyone else getting through. This requires the next person through the door to swipe their badge and enter their PIN. But, as we often witness, that’s not how things work. Frequently more than one person will get through a secure door when it is opened. This happens when someone looks and acts the part of an employee, including toting of an ID badge. Waiting for the door to close is inconvenient and time consuming, for everyone involved.

In addition, someone wearing a stolen SIDA probably has a better chance of sneaking in an open perimeter gate or perhaps even hopping a fence. Someone wearing an ID badge out on the tarmac may be less likely to stand out.

Reporting a badge loss is key to security. If lost badges are reported timely, they can be quickly deactivated. Once deactivated they no longer grant access through electronic lock systems. Some employees, fearing management or hoping that their badges are found and returned, fail to report badge losses timely.

Mass Replacement of Badges At Airports

The TSA requires all badges to be replaced at an airport if more than 5 percent of badges issued at the airport are missing. Missing badges include: Lost, stolen and badges not returned when an employees’ employment is terminated. As a result many airports charge a “non-returned badge fee”. The fee at the Salt Lake City Utah airport is $100 for each non-returned badge and another $100 if an airport vendor or tenant fails to notify the airport of an employee’s termination.

In contrast, 1,400 or so missing badges at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia, represents less than 2.4 percent of the nearly 60,000 people employed at the facility.

Recurring Training

Some Airports require recurring training. For instance, Evidence Solutions, Inc. security experts found a 31 slide power point training course on the Salt Lake City International Airport’s website. The course outlined the security measures expected of employees as well as the consequences if an employee doesn’t follow protocol.

Security is Everyone’s Responsibility.

As the title indicates, we believe security is a shared responsibility. Airport police cannot be everywhere at once. Employees of the airport, the airlines,vendors and even passengers should all be diligent while traveling. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, report it. It may seem silly at the time,but you may be interrupting a crime in progress.


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