By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 8:50 am
“Aircraft bomb finds may spell end for in-flight Wi-Fi.” That’s the headline on a New Scientist story about last week’s discovery of bombs packed into laser-printer cartridges which were sent from Yemen and apparently intended to blow up airplanes. The point of the story is that terrorists might use in-flight Wi-Fi to communicate from the ground with a cell phone that had been rigged to trigger a bomb aboard a plane, a possibility so risky that it might lead to the abolishing of in-flight Wi-Fi, period.
The article doesn’t really live up to the headline: The closest it gets to evidence that Wi-Fi “may” be banned is a reference to an alarmed explosives expert saying it might be too dangerous.
Seems like a ludicrous overreaction to me. The in-air Wi-Fi I’ve used–Gogo–requires the user to log in and enter a CAPTCHA, and while I don’t discount the possibility of terrorists being smart enough to build a Wi-Fi-based bomb triggering device that can autonomously log into an in-flight network designed to be accessed by humans, it seems like it would require an awful lot of work on their part. Wouldn’t a plain old-fashioned timer produce much the same results with far less effort and technical knowledge required, and less likelihood that the device would fail or be detected?
Remember when a bunch of news organizations suggested that laptops might be banned from airplanes, period? Let’s hope this theory is just as solid as that one…