Cybersecurity Concerns Thwart TSA PreCheck Expansion

by Daniel McCarthy

Photo: Grant Wickes

The rising popularity and expansion of the Transportation and Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck program has hit a roadblock because of concerns over cybersecurity.

The TSA has decided to put a hold on its search for private companies to help with the enrollment process “in light of the increased and evolving cybersecurity risks over the past year,” the organization said in a statement.

More than 2 million travelers have enrolled in the program so far, half of them in 2015. To keep up with the demand, TSA was searching for partners to help vet new applicants, and planning to use passenger information to test prospective partners. But concern grew over the “significant amount of risk” involved in sharing travelers’ personal information with companies who were not yet TSA partners.

TSA does plan to come up with a new plan that will “align with DHS cybersecurity best practices,” but for now, the news puts a wrench in the Department of Homeland Security's goal of enrolling 25 million people by 2019.

TSA estimated that more than 99% of PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes for their security screenings, and 45% of all passengers screened in 2015 opted for PreCheck or some other form of expedited screening (Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI).

The program was created in 2011 to speed up the security process at U.S. airports by allowing pre-screened travelers to keep on their shoes and light jackets, and to leave laptops and small liquids in their carry-ons while going through security.  

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