Airlines such as Qantas and Virgin may have to delay plans to install in-flight Wi-Fi on their aircraft following the discovery at the weekend of several bombs which experts claim could easily be set off using an onboard Wi Fi network. The move will be a blow to people who want to use tablets on aircraft
The Daily Telegraph in the UK said that mobile phones have long been used by terrorists to remotely detonate explosives, by calling or texting the handset, and there are now concerns that by allowing people to use mobile devices during flights could enable terrorists to easily activate a bomb.
In-flight Wi-Fi gives would-be bombers ample opportunity to contact explosive devices hidden on an aircraft, said Roland Alford, managing director of an explosives consultancy firm.
“If it were to be possible to transmit directly from the ground to a plane over the sea, that would be scary,” he told New Scientist. “Or if a passenger could use a cellphone to transmit to the hold of the aeroplane he is in, he could become a very effective suicide bomber.”
Experts discovered mobile phones packed in with explosives in the printer bombs that were discovered on cargo planes last weekend. It is not yet clear whether the phones would have worked as timers, or whether they would have been activated remotely by terrorists calling or texting the phone.
But companies who have invested heavily in developing in-flight Wi-Fi systems have defended the technology.
“There are many ways of coordinating an attack without using a mobile phone,” said Aurelie Branchereau-Giles, a spokesman for OnAir, which makes in-flight Wi-Fi equipment.
“The position of our security experts is that the use of mobile phones on planes does not constitute any additional security threat.”