Aircraft bomb find ‘could mean the end of in-flight Wi-Fi’

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LONDON - Last week’s discovery of explosive packed in laser printer cartridges connected to a mobile phone could mean the end of Wi-Fi connections for passengers in flights.

A cellphone connected to a detonation circuit could have allowed a terrorist to trigger an explosion by calling or texting the phone, reports New Scientist.

Recently, the aviation industry was gearing up to provide in-flight entertainment systems that feature both cellphone and Wi-Fi connections for passengers, but the bomb find could change all that now.

Roland Alford, managing director of Alford Technologies, an explosives consultancy in Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK, said he expects the technology to be scrutinised in the security reviews being undertaken by the UK government and US Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the discovery of the printer bombs.

In-flight Wi-Fi “gives a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft”, Alford said.

“If it were to be possible to transmit directly from the ground to a plane over the sea, that would be scary. 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,” said Alford’s colleague, company founder Sidney Alford.

Manufacturers will not welcome this fresh security concern, having finally gained airworthiness approval for their in-flight cellphone and Wi-Fi systems by proving that their microwave transmissions do not interfere with avionics.

“The position of our security experts is that the use of mobile phones on planes does not constitute any additional security threat,” said Aurelie Branchereau-Giles of OnAir, a company based in Geneva, Switzerland. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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