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Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Security Technologies

Credential Authentication Technology

Credential authentication technology automatically authenticates identity documents presented to TSA by passengers during the security checkpoint screening process. In late 2013, TSA issued a request for information to conduct market research to better understand capabilities available in industry for CAT. TSA anticipates that the new technology will enhance security and increase efficiency by automatically verifying passenger identification and obtaining the passenger’s vetting status.

Advanced Imaging Technology

Advanced imaging technology safely screens passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats, including weapons and explosives, which may be concealed under clothing without physical contact to help TSA keep the traveling public safe. Click here to learn more about the technology, safety measures and privacy protocols.


Graphic of a biometric eye scan

Retinal scans. Fingerprint identification. A few years ago these things seemed like something out of a science fiction movie. Today, they are becoming an important parts of our risk-based approach to security.

Biometric identification allows us to verify a person is who they say they are by using their own unique set of identifiers - fingerprints, iris scans or a combination of the two. We continue to test this technology at airports and harbors across the country, allowing us to control access to important facilities.

Bottled Liquids Scanners

Photo of a TSO using a FIDO XT

Bottled liquids scanner screening systems are used across the nation by transportation security officers to detect potential liquid or gel threats which may be contained in a passenger's property. The technology differentiates liquid explosives from common, benign liquids and is used primarily to screen medically necessary liquids in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces.

BLS units use a variety of technologies including lasers, infrared, and electromagnetic resonance. Current units may be used to screen clear and tinted glass and plastic bottles.

Following the disruption of the UK/US airline bombing plot in August 2006, TSA issued new rules that, with a few exceptions, effectively banned liquids, gels, and aerosols on aircraft. After conducting extensive research, TSA determined small amounts of liquids are not a threat. On September 26, 2006, TSA permitted small amounts of liquids, gels and aerosols in travel size containers, and exempted baby formula/milk/juices, medicines and other medically-required liquids.

Explosives Detection System

Photo of EDS machine

Ever wonder what happens to your bag once you check it with your airline? We screen every bag placed on an airplane, whether taken as carry-on or checked with an airline. With nearly two million people flying each day, it's a Herculean task.

We are able to meet this requirement by using explosive detection system machines, which work like the CT machines in a doctor's office. Through a sophisticated analysis of each checked bag, the EDS machines can quickly capture an image of a single bag and determine if a bag contains a potential threat item . If a bag requires additional screening, it may be automatically diverted to a resolution room where security officers will quickly inspect it to ensure it doesn’t contain a threat item. Once cleared, the bag is reintroduced to the system, where it continues onto the aircraft. In some cases, the alarm is quickly resolved and in others law enforcement and/or the bomb squad may be called in.

When used in conjunction with an airport's automated inline baggage handling system, dramatic improvements in both security and efficiency are achieved.

Explosives Trace Detection

Photo of a Explosives Trace Detection TSO and Machine

Explosives trace detection is technology used at security checkpoints around the country to screen baggage and passengers for traces of explosives. Officers may swab a piece of carry-on or checked baggage or a passenger’s hands and then place the swab inside the ETD unit to analyze it for the presence of potential explosive residue.

In 2010, TSA expanded its use of ETD technology in airports as part of our layered approach to aviation security and to keep passengers safe.

Passengers may experience screening of their hands using an ETD swab at the security checkpoint, in the checkpoint queue, or boarding areas. Since ETD technology is used on a random basis, passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport or each time they travel.

Read TSA's press release: TSA Expands Use of Explosives Trace Detection Technology at Airports Nationwide

Paperless Boarding Pass

Photo of a TSO scanning a man's Paperless Boarding Pass on his BlackBerry

The paperless boarding pass pilot enables passengers to download their boarding pass on their cell phones or personal digital assistants. This innovative approach streamlines the customer experience while heightening the ability to detect fraudulent boarding passes. Each paperless boarding pass is displayed as an encrypted two-dimensional bar code along with passenger and flight information. TSA security officers use scanners to validate the authenticity of the boarding pass at the checkpoint.

How It Works

The electronic boarding pass contains a two-dimensional barcode encrypted with specific passenger information, such as the traveler's name and flight information.

At the checkpoint, a TSA travel document checking officer will instruct the passenger on how to scan their cell phone or PDA so that TSA can verify the authenticity of the boarding pass. Passengers will still be required to show photo identification so officers can validate that the name on the boarding pass matches the name on the ID.

Threat Image Projection

Photo of a woman handing luggage to a TSO

In addition to classroom training, we use on-the-job training to keep our security officers' skills sharp. Through the daily use of threat image projection software program, our security officers are routinely tested on their ability to detect weapons and explosives by X-ray. Potential threats, including guns and explosives, are projected onto X-ray images of carry-on bags so our security officers remain focused and attentive.

These tests allow us to evaluate individual performance and shape our training programs appropriately. Because our X-ray equipment is linked to a vast internal network, every airport and X-ray monitor receives automatic image updates from the technology lab. This link allows us to quickly upgrade our technology using the latest intelligence on potential and emerging threats and convey it to security officers across the nation.

Latest revision: 30 October 2014