Today the Age in Australia, Via Stuff in NZ, reported that WiFi may be dead before it arrives on planes due to new security concerns.

They claim:

The long-awaited advent of Wi-Fi and mobile phone usage on planes may be scuttled before it begins after last week’s bomb scares.

The person they quote (a Managing Directory of a British explosives consultancy) claims:

Wi-Fi connections give a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft, Alford told New Scientist, including voice-over-internet connections to reach a mobile phone.

Pity they didn’t interview a TECHNOLOGY expert rather than an explosives MD.  Because the facts are:

  • At 30,000 feet most cell signals are out of range from terrestrial (ground) cell sites.  If they are in range whether or not the plane offers a service or not doesn’t change any risks.
  • WiFi on planes will require security to log on (just as a WiFi access point does on the ground).  This means a device on a plane has to know that password before it’s able to communicate.
  • The headline is totally misleading. Even the story says things will be reviewed (not dead) and the only airline quoted says their use would not pose any threat.
  • The headline is also TOTALLY wrong since already dozens of airlines offer WiFi and have been for over a year.

With a simple password system any WiFi on a plane will not add to any security issues (which all have BTW), Airlines don’t normally provide WiFi for free!).  The biggest issue is actually a device on a plane that’s near the ground (ie within terrestrial cell site range) coz unless planes install cell blockers, a device could be remotely activated from the ground without any airlines providing WiFi or cell services (ie it just uses the standard land based cell network).  Of course a bomb with a simple timer would work too.  The risk is from the BOMB, not WiFi!   The focus needs to be on how to detect explosives devices, not banning communications that have no bearing on the issue.

Black and White Version: Another headline that is NOT what the story says.  Nothing to see here, move on.

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