Laptops Could Pose Threat On Planes

Rewired electronics could interfere with a plane's controls, a security pundit says.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 12, 2002

1 Min Read

As every passenger on a commercial jet has been told at least once, inadvertent interference from electronic devices theoretically can cause plane controls and signals to fail. But few know that common devices can be reprogrammed to intentionally interfere with a plane's functions.

The threat isn't new to some security circles, but, says Chet Uber, a senior consultant with consulting firm Security Posture, it's not being taken seriously enough. Laptops and PDAs can be rewired to create electromagnetic weapons or to disrupt flights, Uber says.

"A computer is a bulky device, and when you're not looking to discriminate the electronics, there's ample opportunity to put something bad in there," he says. Airport screening procedures are good, he says, "but they're not asking, 'Is this good or bad electronic equipment?' "

It could be that the threat of electronics-induced plane failure isn't as great as that posed by explosives, Uber says. There may also be political and financial barriers to investigating the issue further. "The computer industry lobbied heavily to get computers on airplanes," he says. And "it all costs money and the airline industry is in crisis, so this isn't a priority."

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