Is In-Flight Wi-Fi Now Threatened by Terrorists?

In-flight Wi-Fi is a modern wonder. In an age where electronics are suspiciously inspected in airports, getting to access the internet while at higher than 30,000 feet seems like a small miracle. That's why Virgin America is one of the preferred ways to fly here at Tom's, but sadly the wonders of Wi-Fi on a plane could be threatened by paranoia over terrorism.

New Scientist believes that recent laser printer cartridge bomb that had travelled undetected on aircraft to the UK and to Dubai, but luckily went undetonated, could stir reasons for a further clamp down on wireless electronics in air travel.

The bombs were hooked up to cell phones, but they did not contain SIM cards, making them useless for making or receiving calls. This nearly rules out that the phones would use cell technology to activate the explosives.

What the discovery could do, however, is stall or even kill off the development and adoption of wireless device use while in flight. For gadget lovers, it would be a case where the terrorists win.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • rohitbaran
    Well, if it is for the sake our lives, we can take the precaution of not using wireless devices in flight.
  • Darkerson
    Its just sad that its come down to this. Having to worry about some selfish prick using random electronics to make a damn bomb and then trying to detonate it on a plane, killing an untold amount of innocent people because he/she has a chip on their shoulder. Luckily, that didnt happen here, but still, it just plain sucks that this is the kind of stuff, among other things, that we have to worry about if we want to fly.
  • cashews
    That really sucks
  • nebun
    if it meant my life then i can do without wifi for a few hours, it's not the end of the world
  • shadowamazon
    You think this will Stop someone from pulling out a cell phone and turning it on? Get real
  • People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.
  • Crashman
    rohitbaranWell, if it is for the sake our lives, we can take the precaution of not using wireless devices in flight.Looking at some of the responses, I really have to say that I thought Tom's Hardware readers would be a little more technically competent than, say, the FAA.

    Bomb makers don't look for the most technologically advanced detonation method, they look for the easiest and most concealable method. That would usually be a timer.

    If you're going to go by air signals to pick a place for the explosion, one of the easiest ways would be to trip the trigger either when the plain exits cell range (exploding on the way out of the airport) or when it enters cell range near landing.

    Relying on the onboard WiFi would be a far more complicated and less reliable trigger method. The only reason someone would go to those extra lengths is to prove they could. I don't see terrorist giving up a "sure kill" in an effort to prove their technical proficiency
  • A person doesn't need wifi to communicate from the passenger compartment to the cargo hold. A pair of $20 FRS radios will do just fine, and with a lot less technology than designing something that has to talk IP over wireless.
  • dogman_1234
    Here is an idea:

    Get rid of the TSA, have people be their own TSA, like what happened on Christmas Day to the idiot and his underpants! :LOL:
  • gto930
    or faraday cage the cargo hold?