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Laptop Ban on Planes Came After Plot To Put Explosives in iPad (theguardian.com) 286

Last week, United States and United Kingdom officials announced new restrictions for airline passengers from eight Middle Eastern countries, forbidding passengers to carry electronics larger than a smartphone into an airplane cabin. Now The Guardian reports, citing a security source, the ban was prompted in part by a plot involving explosives hidden in a fake iPad. From the report: The security source said both bans were not the result of a single specific incident but a combination of factors. One of those, according to the source, was the discovery of a plot to bring down a plane with explosives hidden in a fake iPad that appeared as good as the real thing. Other details of the plot, such as the date, the country involved and the group behind it, remain secret. Discovery of the plot confirmed the fears of the intelligence agencies that Islamist groups had found a novel way to smuggle explosives into the cabin area in carry-on luggage after failed attempts with shoe bombs and explosives hidden in underwear. An explosion in a cabin (where a terrorist can position the explosive against a door or window) can have much more impact than one in the hold (where the terrorist has no control over the position of the explosive, which could be in the middle of luggage, away from the skin of the aircraft), given passengers and crew could be sucked out of any subsequent hole.
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Laptop Ban on Planes Came After Plot To Put Explosives in iPad

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:07AM (#54118247)

    From where you think they got this "exploding electronic" idea, humm?

    • And here I was going to guess Hollywood.

    • Look at me I'm on my IPad if I turn it this way the bomb goes off
    • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:23AM (#54118365)
      Pretty much from the fact that business travelers greatly prefer flying on [luxury; government-subsidized] middle eastern airlines over our own shitty alternatives. If these folks can't do work on anything but a smartphone, they'll be forced to fly on different airlines. This is economic warfare at its finest.
      • Re: Thanks Samsung! (Score:4, Informative)

        by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsd@@@harrelsonfamily...org> on Monday March 27, 2017 @11:44AM (#54118979) Homepage

        This ban has NOTHING to do with what logo is painted on the aircraft, but depends entirely on the airports involved.

        Flying from Paris to Chicago? Middle-Eastern and American airlines have the same rules -- electronics allowed, even on a Middle-Eastern airline. Flying from Istanbul to New York? Once again, same rules for Middle-Eastern and American airlines -- no electronics, even on the American airline.

        So, explain to me how this is supposed to prefer one airline over another? I am really waiting to hear this one.

        • Re: Thanks Samsung! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dfm3 ( 830843 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @11:54AM (#54119061) Journal
          It does make a difference if the ban covers a hub city for that airline. Say you are flying from Paris to Chicago and have a choice of flying on Emirates with a layover in a laptop ban country, versus flying an American carrier with a layover in Germany. This could sway that decision.
          • It could, but it kind of goes against the GP's narratives of middle eastern being better than "own shitty alternatives" because frankly most of the world's airlines are better than American ones, and there's a metric shitload of hubs to chose from.

            Unless you think this was some mass global conspiracy designed by the USA to push profits to Asian / European airlines.
            #americafirst.

        • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

          I don't know if it's true of all the impacted airports, but I believe that in most of the cases (it's certainly true of Istanbul and Dubai), there aren't any American passenger airlines that fly to them.

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

      From where you think they got this "exploding electronic" idea, humm?

      /. probably. That's where I get all of my terrorist ideas from.

  • A colleague of mine was **adamant** that because he could quantify the amount of harm Bush had done to the country in terms of lost troops, money, etc. and could not do the same with Obama (Arab Spring, Benghazi, etc.) that Obama was simply not in the same league. My response was that Obama was actually worse because while Bush weakened the old order that kept a lid on the extremists in the name of spreading dumbocracy in the Middle East, he didn't help overturn regimes like the Mubarak or Gaddafi regimes w

    • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:43AM (#54118525)

      I don't think most people really understand why the West is (more or less) organised, developed, peaceful, democratic (more or less).

      And I wish there was a simple answer. But the list of factors just keeps growing. There are many lands in the world where nation states just will not start up, no matter how much aid is given nor ordinance be dropped.

      A major factor is the tribal nature of societies, which don't transition well into nationhood because its government institutions become tribal, nepotistic, and so simply raise resentment amongst the youth who are not well connected. Look at the global corruption index for a measure of why having fair, open, meritocratic, institutions are essential for countries to "work". And how do you make an institution meritocratic and fair if everyone you hire is tribalistic and used to the tribal loyalty and connections way of doing business?

      Then, that's just one factor. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying tribes are bad. They have been humanity's answer to social order for 50,000 years or more. It ain't going anywhere anytime soon.

      A place like the UK started to rewrite the social rules starting with the Magna Carta 800 years ago. It has had time to work its way into the institutions.

      Then, on top of that, you have a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They run proxy wars though all sorts of groups, in a region where population growth and failed modernity has provided a lot of young unemployed men who love the idea of brotherhood and so readily form militias and want to kick ass. All that weaponry funding is coming from somewhere, namely the Saudis and Iranians and in turn, their Western allies and their Russian and Chinese allies.

      And that's just for starters, before we even get to the 100 shades of Islam and the authoritarian nature of that religion which on the one hand, makes people want to have a peaceful, ordered, highly moral life, yet on the other hand, is quite uncompromising and has a retro-revival ethos going, making it highly puritanical, and is being actively weaponised by various political and religious leaders.

      And that's before we even get into more complex factors.

      So basically, no, just repatriating migrants and getting tough with regimes isn't going to get very far.

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        I don't think most people really understand why the West is (more or less) organised, developed, peaceful, democratic (more or less).

        And I wish there was a simple answer. But the list of factors just keeps growing. There are many lands in the world where nation states just will not start up, no matter how much aid is given nor ordinance be dropped.

        Well, we don't have to look to far to see historically what happened. There generally were a whole bunch of people with money that had a common enemy. Then they started up a war by themselves. Large geopolitical foes of the enemy then dropped some cash and troops to help them along.

        Winning is a bit random (depends a bit on the relative strength and will of the large geopolitical forces), but if the small country won, the country needed to be rich enough to survive without the support once the large benef

      • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @12:12PM (#54119203)

        A major factor is the tribal nature of societies, which don't transition well into nationhood because its government institutions become tribal, nepotistic, and so simply raise resentment amongst the youth who are not well connected. Look at the global corruption index for a measure of why having fair, open, meritocratic, institutions are essential for countries to "work". And how do you make an institution meritocratic and fair if everyone you hire is tribalistic and used to the tribal loyalty and connections way of doing business?

        Two problems:

        1) Tribalism is a massive problem because we (the west) didn't give any consideration to tribal boundaries when we carved the Middle East and Africa into "colonies", and we didn't try to correct that before we granted independence, so the modern countries share the same moronic borders as the old colonies

        2) Tribalism isn't even the biggest problem -- we've continually interfered in the building of power structures in the quest for cheap mineral resources for our countries' companies. We've installed dictator after dictator, constantly destabilising the region decade after decade.

        • Tribalism is a massive problem because we (the west) didn't give any consideration to tribal boundaries when we carved the Middle East and Africa into "colonies"

          I always figured the west paid great consideration to it, then purposfully split things up to cause the maximal problems.

          Tribalism isn't even the biggest problem -- we've continually interfered in the building of power structures in the quest for cheap mineral resources for our countries' companies.

          There's dumping too. The we heavily subsidise agric

      • by liquid_schwartz ( 530085 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @12:54PM (#54119577)
        Tribalism is going to take down the US yet. When the "melting pot" idea was dropped in favor of focusing on separate cultural identities the friction between groups increased. The increase shows no end in sight and the media cheers and eggs on the friction.
      • You are totally correct.

        People from Western countries have absolutely no idea that someone from a tribal culture that has had democracy somehow foisted on them simply cannot vote for someone who is not from their tribe. Given a choice between candidate A from their tribe and candidate B from some other tribe they will ALWAYS vote for candidate A, they effectively have no freedom to choose candidate B because it goes against everything they believe. Policies of the candidates don't even come close to being c

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      set up a policy of aid in the form of both financing for repair in countries like Syria and direct military assistance to the damaged states to help them stamp out the Islamist uprisings quickly, brutally and with as little collateral damage to non-combatants as possible.

      The third criteria is impossible when you include the first 2. A perfect example is the air-strike on a truck bomb that killed over 100 people in Mosul. And even without limiting damage to non-combatants it would take a hell of a lot longer than 6 months. Any form of "quick, brutal" military action whose stated goal is to stamp out an Islamic uprising would just cause even more uprisings to pop up, as well as quickly cause moderate or non-hostile Muslim nations to quickly rethink their positions re: the

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        While I agree with much of what you wrote, I think there is a future problem caused by the why the coalitions are formed now. Daesh represents a common enemy, so it is easier to strike up a coalition to defend against it. However, once that common enemy goes away, Iraq and Syria will be left with several heavily armed groups which now have battlefield experience and no record of having worked in harmony among themselves previously except to defeat Daesh.

        In such an environment, one would hope for central gov

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          While I agree with much of what you wrote, I think there is a future problem caused by the why the coalitions are formed now. Daesh represents a common enemy, so it is easier to strike up a coalition to defend against it. However, once that common enemy goes away, Iraq and Syria will be left with several heavily armed groups which now have battlefield experience and no record of having worked in harmony among themselves previously except to defeat Daesh.

          In such an environment, one would hope for central governments to provide for a common future, except that there is too much blood on Assad's hands and he's too Alawite to play well with the other groups in Syria, and Iraq's government is more or less Iran's poodle. The outside countries are willing to fight to the last Syrian and Iraqi, and they will not suddenly stop supporting their proxies.

          The only avenue I see for those two countries are representative democracies with a separation of religion and state, but the tribal and the Islamic parasites running the mosques will never allow it, they have too much to lose...and it is so much fun telling everyone else how to live, without that, the parasites themselves see no reason to live.

          In Syria's case there are only 2 paths to peace: Assad steps down or he wipes out the opposition. Sadly it seems as if it will head towards the second option, especially if Syria turns into a proxy war between US and Russia (domestic politics may inadvertently push Trump towards that in an attempt to distance himself from claims of being too cozy with Russia).

          But my master's thesis touched on some of this: reintegration or disarmament of militias is one of the hardest parts of counterinsurgency operatio

  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:19AM (#54118333)

    Let's assume this is a real threat And obviously it is doable, you could open up an ipod, rip out the guts, and put other stuff in its place. Why just 8 countries then? If its a real threat, its a global threat. Its not all that hard for someone to fly to another country first and then travel from an allowed airport. If this is a real threat, it should be from all airports. Otherwise its just games.

    • Otherwise its just games.

      First time flying?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's obviously bullshit. Why would you try to use one of the thinnest tablets available? Why spend all that money?

      • It's obviously bullshit. Why would you try to use one of the thinnest tablets available? Why spend all that money?

        THIS! If I was going to bring explosives on a plane it would be within an Alienware laptop.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday March 27, 2017 @12:07PM (#54119169) Homepage Journal

      Let's assume this is a real threat And obviously it is doable, you could open up an ipod, rip out the guts, and put other stuff in its place. Why just 8 countries then? If its a real threat, its a global threat. Its not all that hard for someone to fly to another country first and then travel from an allowed airport. If this is a real threat, it should be from all airports. Otherwise its just games.

      I flew from San Jose, CA to Salt Lake City, UT on Friday last week. I was "randomly" selected for slightly-enhanced screening, even though I was going through the TSA Pre-checked line -- and so were the two people before and after me. In this case the screening enhancement was to apply a bomb sniffer to all of my electronic devices, after they'd been xrayed. So, based on what I saw, at that airport on that day, the TSA had turned the random selection probability way up (perhaps 100% -- all five of the people I saw go through were "selected") and implemented a specific check for bombs in electronic devices.

      So it appears to me that the TSA may actually have responded across all US airports, though not with more screening, not a device ban.

    • I believe the issue is the quality of the security screening in these countries.

  • Can something like this device [www.cbc.ca]apply for access in cabin ?
  • This myth was busted on Mythbusters' first season. You can *fall* out of an airplane that has had major structural failure, but you aren't going to get sucked out of your seat unless the opening is literally underneath you (and large enough).
    • Mythbusters is not very reliable regarding busting myths.

      http://www.ripleys.com/weird-n... [ripleys.com]

      http://www.historyandheadlines... [historyandheadlines.com]

      I guess if you modify the search a bit, you find plenty of more incidents.

    • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:57AM (#54118637)

      So please explain how a pilot fell out of the window of the cockpit after it broke https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      The window is not underneath him http://www.bac1-11jet.co.uk/N9... [bac1-11jet.co.uk]

      While extremely entertaining, Mythbusters are pretty bad in using Google and I would never use them as an example of why things are not possible, only to say if they are possible. (Bit like a ping doesn't say much when you don't get anything back)

    • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @11:20AM (#54118795) Homepage Journal

      That wasn't the myth they were testing. As other people have pointed out, people can and have been sucked out of airplanes. As I recall, the episode you're talking about even mentioned that fact.

      What they were testing was that a bullet hole in a plane could lead to "explosive decompression" and cause a large hole to suck people out. Specifically the myth that a terrorist with a gun shoots a hole in a window and that causes a large hole that people get sucked out of. And they determined that such a scenario just wouldn't work: airplane glass won't fracture like that, and the hole the bullet creates wouldn't be large enough to cause enough suction to suck people out.

      But they never tested anything like an exploding iPad or laptop. They were specifically testing shooting holes in a plane with a gun.

      • But they never tested anything like an exploding iPad or laptop. They were specifically testing shooting holes in a plane with a gun.

        In fact they also tested [youtube.com] blowing up a window with explosives, and then blowing out the side of the plane with a very large explosive. They still concluded that modern planes are very structurally sound and that it would suck for the person sitting next to the explosives, but everyone else will just get a bunch of air rushing past. Also covered in the more extreme scenario of a spacecraft decompressing in zero atmosphere [nerdist.com] by Kyle Hill of Because Science.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @11:39AM (#54118955)
      Mythbusters tested a small bullet hole in a pressurized fuselage. The thing about pressure is it's a force per unit of area. So the larger the opening, the larger the forces involved (until the pressure is equalized). So something as small as a bullet hole doesn't result in large forces.

      Aloha Airlines flight 243 [faa.gov] lost the forward section of its fuselage. The flight attendant standing in row 2 near the front of the failed section was hit in the head by debris and fell to the floor [ntsb.gov]. The flight attendant standing in row 5 near the rear of the failed section, with all the force of the cabin air behind her, was blown out by the decompression.

      Airline fuselages are designed to suffer decompression only in a small section [wikipedia.org]. You literally design weak sections surrounded by a lattice of strong sections, so a crack or failure cannot unzip the skin around the entire plane as it did in Aloha 243. The failure aboard Aloha is suspected to have started on the left side (one of the passengers noticed a crack by the door while boarding). And the theory is the crack failed producing a small hole. The flight attendant was blown towards the hole by outrushing air, and her body momentarily plugged the initial hole [honoluluadvertiser.com]. This caused a pressure hammer from the air behind her rushing forward towards that hole blew out the entire forward cabin overhead.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:23AM (#54118363) Homepage

    was the discovery of a plot

    if every time someones discovered plotting the demise of western civilization we are to enact some new pointless and myopic law for our airlines, we may as well scrap the whole idea of commercial flight. Someone could easily roll a grenade into the screening area, or the food court, or even the ticket counter and accomplish just as much if not even more than an i-pad bomb. or they could show up at a gay nightclub and kill 60 people. or shoot up a government building in San Bernadino.

    Los Angeles International even had a guy show up with a high power rifle and start picking off cops and TSA agents, which went way beyond a plot, but we still dutifully strip off our shoes and throw out our bottled water in homage to the all mighty security theatre. The point of terrorism is that once you concede to being terrorized, thats it, youve lost whatever war you thought you were fighting against it.

    • It's my fault. I tried to get a laptop ban through security but it got spotted because it failed the laughtest, so they confiscated it and incarcerated it into their procedures.

    • Body bombs. Yes, there was news of a plot to have a Muslim women board a plane with explosives stored in her breast implants. Aside from the jokes of explosive tits, yeah, you can't stop someone from doing that. Once it DOES occur, you can kiss aviation goodbye!

      • Nah. Just ramp up whole body scanners. We can make them, they're just a bit slow. A couple of years of research, a couple of billion dollars in grants and you can get on a flight for your well earned vacation only to find that you have terminal cancer.

        Progress!

  • Do counterfeit iPads even exist, ala the community of Hackintosh tinkerers?

    • Yes and no.

      I saw a counterfied iPad on my last trip to Thailand, but as I "knew" all model types of iPads, I recognized imediatly that it is not an iPad. (It was an Android tablet with Apple Logo etc. on it, made from plastics ... but looked quite convincing on the first glance, but the formfactors etc. were all wrong).

  • by wired_parrot ( 768394 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @10:46AM (#54118547)
    If this ban had been in place in place when a Samsung Note 7 caught fire in an airplane cabin [theverge.com] the result would have been more serious. Instead of being quickly caught and dealt with as the phone battery overheated in his hand while still on ground, it is possible that it would have smoldered undetected in the middle of the cargo hold until turning into a serious conflagration in-flight. A ban like this will increase the risk of in-flight battery fires and make flying less safe.
  • Why are we giving these people any kind of power at all? They are a clear and present dangers to freedom and society.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @11:04AM (#54118695)

    On a Somali flight (Daallo Airlines Flight 159). A laptop full of explosives was smuggled aboard a flight and detonated against the airplane's hull, blowing a hole in it. The only fatality was the bomber, who was sucked out the hole.

    The issue was that, in order to get this laptop around checked bag security in Mogadishu (which isn't too good, but enough so that the terrorists didn't risk carrying it through), they had to have an airport employee carry it in and hand it to the passenger. Now if this is what the USA and GB are worried about, we have a really big problem. If an airport employee can sneak in a laptop, they can sneak in anything up to the allowed carry-on size. It doesn't have to be electronics. It could be a hollowed out bible or koran. The only way to protect against this kind of threat would be to shut down all flights originating at or passing through an airport suspected of being compromised.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      If an airport employee can sneak in a laptop, they can sneak in anything up to the allowed carry-on size. It doesn't have to be electronics. It could be a hollowed out bible or koran. The only way to protect against this kind of threat would be to shut down all flights originating at or passing through an airport suspected of being compromised.

      It already happens in the US. Remember a year or so ago the 2 US airline employees arrested for running guns into New York? One would be booked on a flight and the other would bring a bag full of guns in to work and would pass them off in the bathroom.

    • and if that shoe bomber would of pulled it off then we may all be getting a free colonoscopy at the airport.

    • You don't even need that.

      A teenager was able to get over the airport fence at San Jose airport a little while ago. I doubt that this airport is unique in not having effective perimeter security.

      If you can get over the fence, then anything is possible.

      The obvious conclusion is that there are no real terrorists in the USA. None other than the FBI-invented bomb plots.

  • Sorry but the whole thing smells badly. I have seen the TSA xray of my ipad pro and you cant hide shit in these devices without setting off the detectors. They could even see I had a SD card inserted.

    • I have seen the TSA xray of my ipad pro and you cant hide shit in these devices without setting off the detectors. They could even see I had a SD card inserted.

      Trouble is though that plastic explosives look much like lithium polmer innards. If you replaced the lipo cells with nice rectangular lumps of explosives the same size, it'd be very hard to tell the difference. It'd be even easier to pull off with those laptop batteries which use 18650s.

    • So how do all these other fake devices get through? I've read that the TSA has a lamentable record detecting test devices, and I imagine by test device they mean something that otherwise looks ordinary, because if the test device is a number of red tubes stuffed with trace amounts of dynamite with an alarm clock and curly wires taped to it I'm sure a photo would have emerged by now.
  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @11:46AM (#54118997)

    It's a good thing Terrorists don't know about connecting flights, otherwise instead of taking a flight direct from a banned city to the USA, they'd take their iPad on a flight that connects through a non-banned city, perhaps even transferring from a Middle Eastern airline to a Western airline so they punish even more westerners.

    Which is the same problem the USA has with domestic flights -- an attacker doesn't have to breach security at a large airport, they just need to bribe some random TSA worker in any of thousands of small airports to smuggle a box full of "drugs" that's really the explosive or weapon he wants. The person doing the smuggling doesn't even need to be in on it, they can think they are a well paid drug mule while they deliver a box of explosives to someone at JFK.

    • Or this has nothing to do with security? It's funny that only airports that don't have American carriers were targeted by this ban. So now if I have to go to one of these cities I can take one of these foreign carriers and not have access to my electronics or I can take an American carrier to have access to my electronics on the long part of the flight with a short connection flight. Wonder what a lot of people will do.

      If they were really worried about a fake iPad holding explosives they could have worked

  • Without further details, this story of a plot sounds as though it could be just that - a story. One created to justify further restrictions that lead to further reflexive obedience to authority. I'm not saying there wasn't a plot; but without further information and confirmation, the whole things smacks of propaganda.

  • You're already required to prove that your devices are genuine, but turning them on and operating them in view of a security agent. Is that not enough?

    To me this seems more of a "our existing security theatre isn't working anymore. Time to dial it up another notch" maneuver.

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