Enterprise IT

Buggy software update crashes CBP airport systems

bug alert

The systems used by Customs and Border Protection to process international travelers at various airports of entry to the U.S. went offline for several hours on Jan. 2 -- one of the most critical travel days of the year -- prompting long lines and surly tweets from delayed travelers.

The agency restored service, and traced the problem to a software update implemented on Dec. 28 in systems used to process international travelers.

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection experienced a temporary outage with its processing systems at various airports today beginning at 5 pm and ending approximately 9 pm," said a CBP spokesman in an email to FCW on Jan. 3. "All airports are currently back on line."

The outage affected Miami International, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International, Atlanta's Hartsfield International and Washington Dulles International Airports, as well as Boston's Logan International, Los Angeles International and New York's John F. Kennedy International airports.

Twitter posts from some of those facilities said customs lines were snarled for hours in the late afternoon and early evening of Jan. 2 as processing systems such as Global Entry and mobile services went down.

In its statement, CBP said it "took immediate action to address the issue," and its customs officers continued to process international passengers by "alternative procedures" at the affected airports. Those alternative procedures involve accessing records through backup systems, with officers able to process travelers upon arrival at ports of entry, albeit at a slower rate, according to a source familiar with the systems.

The agency said the outage didn't disrupt database checks, however. "During the technology disruption, CBP had access to national security-related databases and all travelers were screened according to security standards," the agency said in a statement

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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Reader comments

Mon, May 8, 2017 Ray

System is still screwed up! Wife and I Just went thru Customs at Logan as US residents. We sent to separate new terminals. Werent told that both of us should go to same terminal. We were processed individually but still flunked and had to go thru old system!! Then yet another line to present two pieces of paper that could have been collected at last stop! Keep their feet to the fire!!!

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