Buggy software update crashes CBP airport systems

Stalled Customs and Border Protection international traveler processing systems at major U.S. airports are back online after a four-hour outage on Jan. 2.

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

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