As more and more airlines are beginning to offer onboard Wi-Fi, recent bomb scares have caused some to wonder whether or not the features would be worth the risks they pose to passenger security.
A few days ago, authorities intercepted packages on flights bound for the United States that contained an explosive powder. The powder was stored in ink cartridges for printers, and some think that given the opportunity, these parcels could have been triggered by a call or text from a cell phone.
The news may disappoint some passengers who were just beginning to see the light at the end of the connection-free tunnel: airlines are on the brink offering cellular and Wi-Fi services on flights, suppressing the urges of some travelers to illegally use their devices near airport towers. Though it’s unclear as to whether the cellphones in the cartridges were intended as triggers or simply as timers, it’s undeniable that onboard wireless connectivity could open the door for would-be terrorists to communicate with explosive devices.
Some, like Aurélie Branchereau-Giles of OnAir, disagree that introducing Wi-Fi would pose any threat that doesn’t already exist. “There are many ways of coordinating an attack without using a mobile phone… The position of our security experts is that the use of mobile phones on planes does not constitute any additional security threat.” (via New Scientist) Officials also aren’t sure whether the printer packages were meant to be detonated onboard the craft or once they reached their destinations in Chicago.
One thing is clear, the news casts a shadow of doubt over impending Wi-Fi installations on airplanes. Personally, I’d love to zone out on my online video games, but I don’t mind spending the four hours reading a book and brushing up on my crossword skills.