Passenger Profiling

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Current security measures

Whenever a terrorist manages to breach the security system designed to protect airports, questions are asked as to why these countermeasures failed. Invariably new regulations are created and money is spent on technologies in the hope that they fill the gaps left by the last security breach. For example, following the Liquid bomb plot, restrictions were put into place limiting passengers to 100ml bottles of liquid in their hand luggage and more recently money has been spent on full body scanners in the hope that they will detect IEDs concealed on terrorists’ bodies.

Continually mutating threat

Although adding new technologies and restricting certain items can help security screeners detect threat items, they are not effective against the continually mutating threat of terrorism.  Infogence, providers of terrorism incidents and activities intelligence reports, are continually gathering intelligence regarding discussions about new IED technologies and concealments on terrorist websites and message boards.

So while the new regulations and body scanners may foil another “Underwear Bomb” style terrorist attack, they may not be effective against whatever the terrorists use next.

Inefficient security measures

Current security measures are extremely predictable usually involving an X-ray machine and a metal detector/ body scanner while slower but more advanced explosives detection technologies are rarely used.

The security measures therefore rely heavily on the ability of x-ray screeners to identify concealed IEDs, weapons and their components that, without the highest level of training, are extremely difficult to detect. Added to this the fact that security companies are under pressure to get passengers through security checks and into duty free shops as quickly as possible means that screeners are not being given the required time to provide an informed decision on each bag.

Screening all passengers and their luggage in exactly the same way, using the same technologies and as quickly as possible seems extremely inefficient given the fact that 99.9% of passengers are not terrorists.  If the current security measures were applied to a doctor’s surgery, the doctor would take an x-ray of each patient, no matter what their complaint was, look at it for 6 seconds and provide a diagnosis.

Fortunately, doctors do not treat patients this way, and instead ask a few questions before deciding whether further tests are needed on the patient or whether they can be diagnosed straight away. The same principle could be applied to security screening through the use of passenger profiling.



Passenger Profiling

Profiling involves carrying out a risk analysis on all passengers passing through a security checkpoint. It involves passengers being asked a set of questions based on any suspicious signs in their documentation, itinerary, appearance and behaviour. The screener then decides based on the passenger’s behaviour and answers whether they are a threat to the flight they are attempting to board.

Those who pose a threat are put through stringent security measures using complimentary detection technologies like explosives trace detectors, while those who are not seen as threats would ideally go through the normal security measures minus the removal of shoes, liquids and so on.

Profiling therefore provides a more efficient use of both security personnel and technologies.  Security staff can be trained on previous attacks and known terrorist modus operandi enabling them to respond to future threats as well as to those of the past while screeners are given the required time and technologies needed to detect the threat items concealed by terrorists.

An Integrated Security Process

Passenger Profiling should not be seen as a substitute for other screening processes but be integrated into a one stop security checkpoint involving the screening of checked luggage, hand luggage and passengers.

Integrating all security processes allows for security personnel to get the full picture when screening passengers and their luggage. They can identify anomalies and create a more detailed profile of each passenger.

An example of where an integrated security process involving profiling could have been used successfully comes following the recent attempt to blow up flight 253. Abdulmutallab could have been asked why he bought his ticket in Ghana with cash for a flight that left from Nigeria  or why he had not checked luggage for a 2 week stay in the U.S. Had he not provided adequate answers to these questions then he could have been selected for a more thorough check using the various detection tools available.

The need for Training

Although passenger profiling has been implemented in many airports around the world it is often scaled back due to fears that it encourages racial discrimination. There is a worry that screeners can become complacent, see someone and decide that they are a threat due to their religious belief or the colour of their skin rather than through proper reasoning.

The fact is that profiling must be carried out by skilled individuals who have been properly trained to identify terrorists through behavioural analysis, documentation and expert questioning.

Renful Premier Technologies offer a seminar designed to equip all participants with the knowledge, techniques and practical skills required to organise and implement an effective Profiling System at their location.

For more information on our Passenger Profiling please visit us at