Customs computer outage not caused by hackers

Carlos Martinez, Miami International Airport general operation specialist, guides international travelers to the appropriate passport control locations on March 2, 2015 in Miami, Florida.


By ELIZABETH WEISE | USA Today | Published: January 3, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (Tribune News Service) — A four-hour Customs computer outage at the nation’s borders Monday night caused long lines and frayed tempers but was not due to a hacker attack, Customs and Border Protection said.

The outage began at 5 pm EDT Monday and ended at approximately 9 pm. It took down the processing systems used to process international travelers.


As a result, Customs agents had to use alternative procedures to screen travelers “while maintaining the highest levels of security,” Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

“At this time, there is no indication the service disruption was malicious in nature,” CBP said.

Thousands of travelers found themselves waiting in gargantuan lines as they tried to enter the United States, resulting in a flurry of angry, frustrated and resigned tweets and social media posts.

When the main Customs system is down, Customs officers implement alternative procedures to facilitate passengers’ arrival into the United States by accessing records through backup systems. This allows officers to process travelers upon arrival but at a much slower rate, as hundreds of tweets and social media posts attested.


Customs is conducting diagnostic tests to find the cause of the problem that led to the outage.

The outage was not surprising given the antiquated systems used at the nation’s borders, said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

"Technology at these facilities is too outdated to cope with existing travel volume, let alone the increased traffic we hope and expect to see at our gateway airports in years to come," he said.


Poor infrastructure costs the USA money, Dow said.

“The U.S. customs and entry process is already notorious for dissuading long-haul visitors from dealing with the hassle of coming here, and lost inbound travelers means lost export dollars at a time when our economy can ill afford that," he said.

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