The exhilarating return of air travel post-pandemic brought not just passengers back to airports, but also a less-anticipated group: criminals. With the aviation industry keen to get back on its feet, the rush to rehire has inadvertently laid out a welcome mat for criminal gangs.
Fresh alarms are being raised by the US Public Interest Research Group and other international agencies regarding the nefarious attempts by criminal gangs to recruit airport workers.
Peter Nilsson, the leader of European law-enforcement group Airpol, underscores the magnitude of the problem, pointing to the rapid post-pandemic rehiring in airports as a vulnerable point. His concerns are echoed globally, from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to the U.K.s National Crime Agency. Even a United Nations panel ranks this menace among the top security issues faced by civil aviation.
Insider threats are not a novel concern. Yet, the current situation feels markedly different. The aviation sectors haste to restore its pre-pandemic vibrancy, coupled with the recruitment of thousands with minimal experience and security knowledge, has expanded the problem's scale.
For criminal organizations, these inexperienced new hires present perfect targets, with their susceptibility increased due to factors like low wages and growing dissatisfaction in a still-recovering post-pandemic world.
From baggage handlers rerouting contraband-filled suitcases to customs officials getting bribed to turn a blind eye, the industry's vulnerabilities have been laid bare. This year alone has witnessed a spike in serious security incidents, surpassing the total for the entirety of 2022.
The root of the challenge seems to lie in the unprecedented pressures on resources. Rapid recruitment has outpaced the provision of essential security training. Furthermore, ex-employees, despite being on furlough, still possess access codes to sensitive areas, thereby amplifying the risk manifold.
But it's not just external groups orchestrating these crimes. Instances from Miami to Manila highlight that some staff, even those entrusted with ensuring safety like the TSA security officers, have succumbed to temptation, turning pockets into treasure troves.
To address these challenges, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is rolling out a new mandate that requires physical screening of staff at airports, similar to the checks undergone by passengers, to bring the US closer to meeting international standards.
The TSA is also enlisting the help of Liberty Defense Holdings (TSXV:SCAN) (OTCQB:LDDFF), a leading technology provider of AI-based next generation detection solutions for protecting secure locations against prohibited weapons and other threats.
Next Generation Security Detection
Liberty Defense (TSXV:SCAN) (OTCQB:LDDFF) is at the forefront of advanced threat detection technology, designed to identify concealed threats in various sectors. The demand for security solutions that ensure public safety has never been more significant.
Liberty Defense offers advanced security solutions for detecting concealed weapons in high-traffic areas and places requiring heightened security, such as airports, stadiums, schools, and more. Their HEXWAVE product, under an exclusive license from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), along with technology transfer agreements for active 3D radar imaging, delivers discreet, modular, and scalable security to detect metallic and non-metallic weapons without divesting jackets, phones, keys, or wallets.
On November 1st, Liberty Defense (TSXV:SCAN) (OTCQB:LDDFF) announced that it has secured a $1.25M contract from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with potential options bringing the total value to $3.86 million.
This newly acquired contract's primary focus is to equip the TSA with Open Architecture (OA) software. Additionally, the deal involves comprehensive end-to-end engineering development and the evolution of the High Definition Advanced Imaging Technology (HD-AIT) Wideband Upgrade Kit. The anticipated outcome of this initiative is to introduce advanced detection capabilities that will transform passenger screening into a smoother, arms-down experience.
The aim of the TSAs On-Person Screening program is to heighten the detection of an extensive range of threats. The goal is to reduce false alarms and minimize physical contact during the screening process.
According to the TSA, the Open Architecture approach adopted for this initiative is designed for both software and hardware. Using globally recognized standards, OA ensures cross-platform interoperability irrespective of the technology's origin, be it designer, manufacturer, or supplier.
In a parallel move to fortify airport security, Liberty Defense is also joining forces with the TSA to introduce its HEXWAVE walk-through screening portal, an initiative that aligns with the TSA's objective to mitigate insider threats. HEXWAVE, which is currently in production, caters to commercial markets and could serve the growing need for employee screening at airports. This technology is set to work in tandem with the HD-AIT system to bolster passenger screening protocols under the ongoing Liberty-TSA partnership.
A brief look into Liberty's history shows its commitment to aviation security. In March 2021, the company acquired licenses for the millimeter wave-based HD-AIT body scanner and shoe screener technologies. Developed by experts at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), these technologies are tailored for the TSA's mission. Liberty has now taken the reins, further developing this technology with its dedicated team of engineers.
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