Security Consultants Claim New Terrorist Bombs May Mean No More In-Flight WiFi


Mike Masnick

It what may be one of the more ridiculous reactions to the latest (failed) attempts at putting bombs on airplanes, some security consultants are suggesting the ridiculously confused idea that law enforcement may use this as a reason to no longer allow WiFi or mobile phone connectivity on airplanes. The idea behind this is that by adding connectivity, you can now provide remote access to a bomb, and set it off:

In-flight Wi-Fi "gives a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft", Alford says. Even if ordinary cellphone connections are blocked, it would allow a voice-over-internet connection to reach a handset.

"If it were to be possible to transmit directly from the ground to a plane over the sea, that would be scary," says Alford's colleague, company founder Sidney Alford. "Or if a passenger could use a cellphone to transmit to the hold of the aeroplane he is in, he could become a very effective suicide bomber."

But... if you actually think about it for more than a few seconds, this makes almost no sense. First of all, that final sentence makes no sense at all. A suicide bomber on an airplane can already do this. They don't even have to use a cellular network, but any one of plenty of remote wireless options to set up a network between themselves and a bomb stowed away somewhere. Furthermore, they could already use cellular networks (if they're flying over land where such networks exist) -- just not legally. But somehow I doubt a terrorist intent on blowing up an airplane cares about following the FCC rules on using mobile phones on airplanes. As for the terrorist on the ground using WiFi to remotely connect to a bomb... again that's an unlikely scenario. While it's possible that someone could configure such a bomb to automatically log itself on to an in-flight WiFi system, it would still need to figure out how to get through the sign-on and payment setup. Possible? Perhaps. Likely? Not really. It would seem like there are much more reasonable options -- again, such as just using the existing cellular networks. Hopefully this is the idle speculation of these "consultants," rather than anything that any law enforcement agency is taking seriously. But, then again, these are the same law enforcement agencies that make me remove my shoes every time I want to fly.

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