~e; electromagnetic terror

From "human@electronetwork.org" <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Thu, 12 Sep 2002 21:11:17 -0400

// this issue of interference with airline electronics
// has been an issue with regard to cellular phone use
// during flights, and other electronics. airplanes have
// dozens (if not hundreds) of miles of electric cabling
// in the cylindrical shell of the airplane, for flight
// controls and other diagnostic uses. there have been
// investigations of crashes that have also focused on
// the fraying of such cables as a cause of failure of
// an airplane during flight. what is more, while this
// article suggests laptop computers may be lopped off
// in the latest security sweep, it would effectivey
// kill the business class and technological sector
// from flight, in one swoop. another observation is
// that, when on my last plane flight with an EMF meter,
// the signals all around passengers were extremely high
// relative to normal environments, and while this may
// not lead to any conclusions, their must be some way
// to shield passengers (and thus, airliner equipment)
// from stray EM effects. this is where military sci-
// tech could be dually-used in the civilian sector...

Terror warning over electronic equipment 

19:00 11 September 02
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition

Airliners could be brought down by terrorists using modified versions of 
almost any personal electronic equipment, a security expert has warned. He 
says passengers should be barred from carrying any electronic gadgets onto 
aircraft until planes are able to detect them.
Simple modifications to everyday electronic gadgets could bring down an 
airliner Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Chet Uber, a technology expert at Security Posture in Omaha, Nebraska, says 
devices such as radios, tape recorders, CD players, PDAs and laptop
could easily - and invisibly - be adapted to cause potentially catastrophic 
interference with an aircraft's control systems.
While it has been known for some time that cellphones and laptops can cause 
low-level interference, no airline monitors such radio emissions during 
flight. Instead they rely on passengers turning off their devices during 
critical periods such as take-off and landing. 
But Uber told the InfoWar conference in Washington DC that the renewed 
terrorist threat means we should take seriously the possibility someone
intentionally interfere with the plane's instruments.

Basic knowledge 

Currently, if any device being used by a passenger disturbs the normal 
operation of a plane, pilots have no monitoring system to tell them whether 
that problem is due to interference or a malfunction. This leaves aircraft 
wide open to attack from a device operated by a passenger.
For example, Uber says a terrorist with a basic knowledge of electronics 
could modify the circuitry in many common gadgets to create an 
electromagnetic weapon. 
Such a device might interfere with critical flight electronics, such as the 
guidance system that monitors the aircraft's "glide slope", which helps the 
pilot descend smoothly when landing. And at baggage check, even an 
electronics engineer might not be able to spot that an apparently innocent 
piece of equipment had been modified.

Project abandoned 
In 1996, the US Federal Aviation Administration funded a feasibility study
MegaWave Corporation of Boylston, Massachusetts, into ways of detecting 
interfering signals inside aircraft cabins. MegaWave developed a system
scans for a wide range of radio emissions inside the cabin, via sensors 
mounted above each passenger seat. This would allow the flight crew to 
quickly pinpoint the source.
But after successful demonstrations, MegaWave was told that the FAA was 
pulling the plug on the research. MegaWave spokesman Marshall Cross
that it abandoned the project because no commercial air incidents have ever 
been attributed to interference from electronic equipment in the passenger 
"They've given commerce a higher priority than safety," says Uber. "This is
clear threat that has not been taken seriously enough." 
The makers of laptops, in particular, heavily lobbied the FAA not to ban 
their equipment on planes. But Uber says no electronic gadget should be 
allowed inside a commercial aircraft unless the airline knows it is safe. 


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