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Defcon Researchers Build Tool To Track the Planes of the Rich and Famous 125

Posted by timothy
from the you'll-never-catch-me dept.
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "At the Defcon security conference later this week, two security researchers will release a tool that aims to expose a little-seen list of hidden private aircraft flight plans–the so-called Block Aircraft Registration Request or BARR list, a collection of aircraft whose owners have tried to keep their whereabouts secret. Any private jet owner can request to be taken out of the FAA's public database of flight plans. But Dustin Hoffman and Semon Rezchikov found that private flyers' whereabouts are still broadcast in air-traffic control communications. So they developed a speech-to-text system that pulls out planes' tail numbers from those communications almost in real time, often fast enough to post a plane's destination before it lands. In its proof-of-concept version, the site is focusing on Las Vegas airports, but plans to expand to other cities soon."
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Defcon Researchers Build Tool To Track the Planes of the Rich and Famous

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  • Speech to text? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:03AM (#40790627)

    Why don't they just decode the location messages from the avionics? There are several web sites already doing that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:11AM (#40790721)

    If you fly VFR, which can be a pain going cross country, you don't *have* to file a flight plan. It is a good idea, but not a requirement by law. Also, uncontrolled airport -- those without towers -- don't require radio communication to use. If you have a radio it is best to make an announcement on the CTAF/Unicom frequency for safety, but it isn't required.

    So, if you're that paranoid and secretive, register a plane in an LLC and not your own name then fly VFR from Class E to Class E.

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:14AM (#40790751)

    Wrong. The airplanes that carry the rest of us around are tracked in the public domain. These guys are tracking airplanes, not people.

  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:27AM (#40790933)

    Also, uncontrolled airport -- those without towers -- don't require radio communication to use. If you have a radio it is best to make an announcement on the CTAF/Unicom frequency for safety, but it isn't required.

    You're right, and knowing this scares the hell out of me.

    I skydive, and before people start jumping off the plane, the pilot announces over radio, "jumpers in the air." They generally tend to broadcast announcements of the entire operation status, and the general jump run location. The regulars of the airport obviously know this is going on, but I have seen people land there to refuel while traveling someplace else get all amazed watching the skydivers land.

    It's somewhat unnerving to me to know that anyone can just show up without a radio, and without knowing the airport is a dropzone. I assume it can be somewhat hard to visually spot people falling at 120 mph. Obviously there's a lot of empty space up there, so it's not like a collision is likely to happen, but still, it bothers me. Any pilots want to weigh in? Does knowing there are skydivers in an airport bother you? Do you think radio communication should be required in this day and age, or are there good reasons not to have a radio on your plane? Depending of course, on the class of plane. I realize skydivers operate under VFR rules, so if a radio was required, we'd have to strap one on, I guess :)

  • Re:Sensational? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:24PM (#40791977)

    The real question is why they are allowing anonymous private planes. The 'terruist' just need to buy a private plane to do a 9/11 2.0. It would be nice if someone got that conspiracy theory spinning on news networks.

    When the 1% lose their hassle-free flight privilege and have to go though TSA-style abuse, maybe then, things will get better. Nothing change unless the privileged and powerful see for themselves why it need to be changed...

  • by colinnwn (677715) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:42PM (#40792249)
    I took flying lessons in high school, and though it has been a couple years I'm working on my A license at a private airport of the drop zone. I've watched an aircraft fly over the airport while I was in freefall. It is unnerving. But uncontrolled aircraft without radios have as much right to the airspace as divers, who you point out operate as VFR no radio as well. It is a historical artifact of regulation for back when radios were expensive, large, and power hungry, and there were still a significant number of aircraft that didn't even have electrical systems (like Piper Cubs). Personally, I hope this doesn't change. It is a relic of the golden age of aviation, of a simpler time with less regulation. One hopes that pilots who fly without radios are paying attention to their nav charts (which list drop zones). But there are plenty of stupid pilots, just like there are plenty of stupid skydivers.

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