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US Says Plane Finder App Threatens Security 524

Posted by samzenpus
from the dial-D-for-danger dept.
ProgramErgoSum writes "The Plane Finder AR application, developed by a British firm for the Apple iPhone and Google's Android, allows users to point their phone at the sky and see the position, height and speed of nearby aircraft. It also shows the airline, flight number, departure point, destination and even the likely course-the features which could be used to target an aircraft with a surface-to-air missile, or to direct another plane on to a collision course, the 'Daily Mail' reported. The program, sold for just 1.79 pounds in the online Apple store, has now been labelled an 'aid to terrorists' by security experts and the US Department of Homeland Security is also examining how to protect airliners. The new application works by intercepting the so-called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcasts (ADS-B) transmitted by most passenger aircraft to a new satellite tracking system that supplements or, in some countries, replaces radar."
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US Says Plane Finder App Threatens Security

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  • fear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:07PM (#33778310)

    Be afraid! Everything is a threat!
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    and we can't take away all your freedoms unless you are afraid...

  • Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:08PM (#33778316)

    How is this any different from a website like flightstats.com, and I'm sure there are plenty of other sites like that too. It isn't difficult to figure out where the planes are. The app probably only makes it marginally easier to view this data on a phone. Sounds like much ado about nothing

    • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:44PM (#33778654)

      Its different because the data fed to flightstats is delayed for exactly this sort of reason. The app developers are intercepting identifying signals transmitted directly by the airplanes closing the gap between real-time and that delayed by a government-mandated time period. I'm an airplane geek so I would love an app like this. In the meantime, I'm stuck decoding ACARS transmissions with my laptop. I love watching planes take off over my house and have pictures of the plane get automatically downloaded from airliners.net. Way cool.

      • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cylix (55374) * on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:12PM (#33778902) Homepage Journal

        I fail to understand how anyone can complain when they failed to institute basic encryption policies to protect such data.

        It would make no sense to block the application because it's obvious the work can be easily reproduced.

        If this was ever a concern they should have at least implemented some basic protections.

        • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:36PM (#33779054) Homepage Journal

          The worst thing which can happen is for the ATC system to not be able to see the aircraft because a key is wrong. Concerns about terrorism are secondary.

          • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by the_womble (580291) on Monday October 04, 2010 @12:09AM (#33781332) Homepage Journal

            Concerns about terrorism are never secondary.. The 3,000+ people killed by terrorists the the US in the last decade are a far greater concern than the best part of 200,000 other murders over the same period. fewer than 40 people killed by terrorists in the UK in the last decade are a greater concern than than close to 3,000 killed by other murderers over the same period, or something on the order of 30,000 from each of road accidents and suicide.

            It follows that a risk of a terrorist attack is of greater concern then the risk of accidents, even if the latter is a greater threat in terms of the number of people killed.

            Do you expect a rational policy?

        • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by IICV (652597) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:12PM (#33779332)

          What's the point of encrypting these signals? I'm pretty certain you could derive enough of the information in them with a database of airline schedules, background knowledge of the routes airplanes take, and some on the spot information about the plane (which was was it heading? What time is it right now? What flights were delayed recently?) which is freely available stuff if you just crawl the airline websites. The airplanes only broadcast it to make things a bit easier for air traffic controllers; it's nothing a theoretical terrorist group couldn't figure out on their own.

          Also, you can count on the fingers of one head the number of times a commercial airplane has been shot down with a missile in the USA, so basically this is a non-problem.

          • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ckaminski (82854) <ckaminski.pobox@com> on Sunday October 03, 2010 @08:04PM (#33780016) Homepage
            Nevermind the fact that the single best time to shoot down a plane for a terrorist is when it's nearing it's terminus (either takeoff or landing), when it is both slow-moving and at low altitude.

            Most terrorists won't have access to heavy-duty surface to air missiles - at best they'll have Stingers, which aren't very good at chasing high-altitude aircraft (effective range of 3 miles).

            -Chris
            • by AngryNick (891056) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:19PM (#33780410) Homepage Journal

              the single best time to shoot down a plane for a terrorist is when it's nearing it's terminus (either takeoff or landing)

              -knock-knock-knock-
              "Sir, you're under arrest for providing information terrorists might find useful. You have the right to..."

            • Re:Already done? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @10:44PM (#33780772) Homepage Journal

              And even if you don't want to do it at the airport, easy enough to have someone at the airport call you to know when your selected flight takes off, and maybe a couple of other spotters along the way.

              And all of this presumes that if you're a terrorist who wants to shoot an airliner out of the sky, you have a particular desire to choose a specific plane. There may be reasons to do that, but you can terrify people just as well if not better by simply choosing a known flight path and choosing randomly.

              Why was the plane targeted? NOBODY KNOWS! YOU COULD BE NEXT!

              BOO!

      • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:52PM (#33779164)

        The app developers are intercepting identifying signals transmitted directly by the airplanes closing the gap between real-time and that delayed by a government-mandated time period

        Really? Which radio in the iPhone is being used to intercept those signals? The GSM/WCDMA radio? The Wi-Fi radio? The Bluetooth radio? The GPS radio?

        I infer from Pinkfroot's "Share Data" page [pinkfroot.com] that their apps just get the ADS-B data over the Intertubes from people who have ADS-B receivers and make the data available.

    • Re:Already done? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Korrente (1458511) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:27PM (#33778988)
      I can rent an ADS-B equipped plane from my local FBO for $130. I've been able to do this since about 2006. This way, I can track the 737's flying into BNA, and also have the option of flying into any other object within 300 miles. No iPhone needed (it's probably cheaper than an iPhone, too). Yes it's much ado about nothing, but how would we survive without something to ado about?
  • It's bad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:09PM (#33778320)

    If something could potentially be used in a bad way, even if most people aren't going to abuse it, it must immediately be banned! So, basically, anything that can be used as a weapon, too. Which is... pretty much everything.

    • If something could potentially be used in a bad way, even if most people aren't going to abuse it, it must immediately be banned! So, basically, anything that can be used as a weapon, too. Which is... pretty much everything.

      Mandatory blindfolds or hoods. Include the flight crew, because God might tell them to crash another plane [wikipedia.org].

      -- Barbie

    • Re:It's bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:37PM (#33778586) Homepage

      I'd have thought that the _problem_ is that the aircraft is broadcasting its position, not that somebody wrote an app to listen to the signal.

      If some Android developer can figure out how to do it, so can anybody else.

      But...go ahead, ban the app if it makes you feel better.

      • Re:It's bad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by robot256 (1635039) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:01PM (#33778808)
        Aren't the aircraft broadcasting their positions so other planes can avoid them? I don't think we want every single plane operating in stealth mode, just look how well that works with submarines [gizmodo.com]. If there is "increased risk" of being targeted by missiles, then so be it, you're way more likely to run into another plane than get targeted by a missile. And if you're in enemy airspace you should already have that shit turned off.
        • Re:It's bad (Score:4, Interesting)

          by raodin (708903) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @08:46PM (#33780248)

          I'm not sure I can think of anything less stealthy than a commercial airliner, really. They're huge, noisy, and covered in running lights. The only use I can think of for this app for a hypothetical terrorist is to identify a particular aircraft, but we are talking about terrorists here. They typically aren't known for their choosiness in civilian targets. The point is to scare a population by killing a large chunk of largely random people, after all. Binoculars would suffice to target a particular aircraft type or airline, if they're already in range for a shoulder launched SAM, anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cyber-vandal (148830)

        The source of this story was the Daily Mail, that also brought us such superb journalism as this [destructoid.com].

      • by sjames (1099) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:29PM (#33779460) Homepage

        Absolutely, because we can all pick up a Stinger missile at the Walmart, but intercepting the location ourselves is just beyond the realm of possability.

    • Re:It's bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:30PM (#33779020) Homepage Journal

      It is not about legitimate security concerns. as a SAM would hit the aircraft regardless of whether or not an app captured transponder data and superimposed it on a map or not. In fact this app would probably not help a terrorist very much at all, except possibly with identifying a specific aircraft - but don't you think that the terrorist would have receivers already, be listening to VHF transmissions between the cockpit and air traffic control, and so on?

      This kind of app is most useful for aviation nuts who like to track weather, aircraft flights, and other trivia no one will care about a day later. It is good for GA to know what's in the air around you (ignoring FCC and FAA regs about cellphones in the air), and it's particularly good for seeing for yourself how busy air space is along your intended route as you plan.

      What is this whole stink all about?

      Homeland Security Theater. It's about time for the season premier episode and this seems to be it. It is all about a Wizard of Oz like production where we are supposed to watch the media rantings, and not seeing the puny man behind the curtain for the farce he is. It is all about continued existence of Homeland Security and the huge tax burden it creates to support that woefully inadequate charade while not doing what it takes to actually prevent terrorist attacks (e.g., profiling international flight passengers, deporting illegal aliens, stopping illegal immigration, I mean, invasion, at the borders). It is about forcing Americans to embrace the idea of big government, a nanny state, and a global government with no checks and balances.

      It is not about real security at all. It's about a temporary apparent security for which we are exchanging our essential liberties.

  • by kbensema (1868742) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:09PM (#33778322)
    ... instead of, say, the surface-to-air missiles
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fredmosby (545378)
      But iPhone apps are new. An article that says "Surface to air missiles can shoot down airplanes". Just won't get as many readers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:16PM (#33778382)

      ... instead of, say, the surface-to-air missiles

      Hey, I have a right to bear arms. You iPhone users can git your own amendment or else you can git out!

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by f3rret (1776822)

        ... instead of, say, the surface-to-air missiles

        Hey, I have a right to bear arms. You iPhone users can git your own amendment or else you can git out!

        I really don't think the 2nd amendment makes allowances for the possession of strategic or tactical air defenses.

        Speaking of which, instead of spending time on worrying about iPhone apps, maybe these terrorism "experts" should be concentrating on preventing terrorists from gaining access to surface-to-air missiles.

        • by Entropius (188861) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:25PM (#33778466)

          The intent behind it does, really.

          The whole "well-regulated militia" bit likely intends to give citizens the right to be sufficiently well-armed to constitute a significant military force -- that's what a militia is. At the time, that consisted of rifles and pistols, but any modern significant military force would necessarily include RPG's, MANPADS, and the like.

          If you really want the Second Amendment to mean what it originally was intended to mean, then yes -- private ownership of these weapons is Constitutionally guaranteed. I don't think this is a good idea, but this position requires changing the meaning of the 2nd.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hedwards (940851)
            Unfortunately you're correct. Strictly speaking the interpretation that people use is kind of odd. It allows people to have a right to firearms that have no involvement in any sort of militia regulated or otherwise. But by the same token it restricts the kind of weaponry that it would actually require to fulfill the intent of that amendment.

            And realistically, the 2nd amendment really ought to be updated to provide people with the right to secure communications.
          • by I_M_Noman (653982) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:13PM (#33778912)

            The intent behind it does, really.

            The whole "well-regulated militia" bit likely intends to give citizens the right to be sufficiently well-armed to constitute a significant military force -- that's what a militia is.

            As I read it, the 2nd Amendment directly refers back to Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 16, which states that Congress gets to arm the militia. Given that, couldn't you extrapolate that since you'd get your weapons from Congress, what weapons you're allowed to get would be decided upon by them?

            • by tweak13 (1171627) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:50PM (#33779938)
              It states that congress may arm a militia if they feel that it would be necessary to do so. It would be ridiculous to imply that it means that militias would only get their arms from the federal government.
    • by mapkinase (958129)

      Plain finder application does not "threaten" security. It's not a person to be threaten. What is threatened here is your precious freedoms, which you declare left and right and do very little to fight for.

    • by dwillden (521345)
      None of which I'm aware of track targets in this manner. Either they are heat seekers, radar guided or optically guided (video camera's).
    • by kenj0418 (230916) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:37PM (#33778600)

      Besides - I'm pretty sure you have to agree not to use your device for anything involving terrorism or nuclear or biological weapons when you sign up for your iTunes account. So terrorists couldn't use it anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by T Murphy (1054674)
        Wrong. I hear there's a hack out that bypasses the agreement dialogue. I hope Apple patches this before any terrorists commit any heinous crimes (like use flash).
    • by cgenman (325138) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:39PM (#33778610) Homepage

      Also note that the iPhone app works because THE AIRPLANE IS BROADCASTING THIS INFORMATION CONSTANTLY. If this information is a security threat, why did they create an air traffic control system where this information is public? If you can't be arsed to encrypt your own broadcasts, is it really shocking when someone actually reads them?

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:35PM (#33779052)

      The linked article and the summary says that "he programme, sold for just 1.79 pounds in the online Apple store, has now been labelled an 'aid to terrorists' by security experts and the US Department of Homeland Security is also examining how to protect airliners." The Daily Mail article says "The US Department of Homeland Security is also examining how to protect airliners."

      Nowhere does it say the "US" or any US official has said the application "threatens security". In fact, the only official to say anything in the article was a UK official, a British MP, who said, 'Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness. The Government must look at outlawing the marketing of such equipment.'

      So basically, the only thing that comes close to any "government" entity calling this application a threat is a British politician, and the "US" has actually made no statement about this application whatsoever, other than a reference in one sentence of the article that DHS is "examining how to protect airliners", and is not, as the headline implies, calling for the app to be pulled or censored, or indeed, even talking about the app at all.

      Great sensationalism, guys. The best part of this is that the comments are howling with the typical anti-US-government complaints, when the "US" hasn't said anything about the app at all. What I come to expect from slashdot.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:10PM (#33778336)
    This news story is an aid to terrorists, since it lets them know that this app could be an aid to them. Bottled water is an aid to terrorists, since it keeps terrorists mentally alert by avoiding dehydration. Shoes are an aid to terrorists, since they allow terrorists to avoid stepping on tacks. The sun is an aid to terrorists, since it illuminates the area so terrorists can see what they're doing. Calculators are aids to terrorists, since they allow them to calculate various aspects of their attacks. Paper is an aid to terrorists, since it allows terrorists to write their plans down. This post is an aid to terrorists, since it tells terrorists what things aid them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:23PM (#33778442)

      I expected these typical responses from people didn't even bother reading the article. Of course slashdot got the headline wrong, but that's to be expected as well.

      The fact is that nobody in the US government has said this app is an aid to terrorists. Its just something that is supposed by a couple of random people. I don't know how slashdot comes to the conclusion that the "US" (government I presume) exclaimed this.

      In short, this entire article and summary is just flamebait and you suckers just got trolled hook, line and sinker. The editors should be ashamed of themselves.

  • a bit late (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lapsed (1610061) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:10PM (#33778340)
    Isn't this a bit like closing the barn doors after the horses have bolted? It sounds like the protocol was designed to be easily intercepted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bacon Bits (926911)

      It really does sound like a "working as designed" problem. Honestly, if you design something to broadcast data with no technical security policies at all, you really can't complain when your data gets intercepted and used for things you can't control. Removing the iPhone app doesn't even remotely fix the problem either, of course, since this kind of device could just be purpose-built.

  • Make your own. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pinckney (1098477) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:11PM (#33778354)

    "Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness. The Government must look at outlawing the marketing of such equipment."

    Perhaps they should consider banning the ADS-B transmitters, then?

    In any case, banning the app would do nothing to anyone with the funds for a SAM. See this document [www.lll.lu] to make your own reciever.

  • until I see a story from a source other than the Daily Fail.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:13PM (#33778358)

    Because terrorists would never, ever be able to find out this information by themselves, or crash their plane into an airliner by, uh, looking for it in the sky while they're flying.

    Have we now moved on from security theater to security standup comedy? At best this seems to be a DHSvertisment telling terrorists where to get useful apps for their iPhone. which they might otherwise never have heard of.

    • "Because terrorists would never, ever be able to find out this information by themselves"

      No, they wouldn't. They need iPhones to accomplish all of their evil deeds!

  • Me too (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:13PM (#33778364)
    I for one welcome our new half-wit overlords.

    If it can be done with a phone app, then obviously it can be done in other ways by terrorists.

    If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck ... dont vote for it

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grey Ninja (739021) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:16PM (#33778388) Homepage Journal

    What conceivable use is this to a terrorist? I've been considering this for a few minutes now. My kneejerk reaction was that the government is being fucking stupid. Then I pondered on exactly how knowing which plane is which is at all helpful. Any ideas anyone? Perhaps I'm focusing too much on the hijacking scenario, and someone could use it to select a target for a SAM. But that just doesn't seem likely, since I would think you would already know your target if you go through the trouble of bringing a SAM to an airport.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Alain Williams (2972)

      My kneejerk reaction was that the government is being fucking stupid.

      The government is not being stupid ... talk up another story about terrorists ... keep the population worried about being blown up by [insert current bad boys here]. A population that is scared is easier to abuse and keep under control.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:17PM (#33778404)
    We have a roomful of senior DHS and other government officials. The head of the group stands up and says, "Gentlemen, the results are now in ... everything is an aid to terrorism."
  • US Department of Homeland Security is also examining how to protect airliners

    Here's an idea: How about protecting the borders and allowing ICE to deport illegal aliens who are already here? That would be a great first step.

    • by Entropius (188861) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:30PM (#33778526)

      I live sixty miles from the Mexican border. We have a bunch of undocumented/illegal aliens here. They are not terrorist threats; only very few are criminals. Most of them are ordinary people who just want a chance to live like anybody else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet (841228)
        But how is that fair to those that actually followed the law and came here legally? And you are also ignoring the hidden costs, for example we too have many illegals and if you get into an accident with one? NO insurance! I hope you enjoy those higher insurance premiums thanks to your friends that "are ordinary people who just want a chance to live". Then figure in the taxes they don't pay, the depression of wages, and the extra demands on services without the extra taxes to pay for them and I'm sorry, but
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by beej (82035)

      Here's another idea: how about preventing the crimes that are already happening in this country!

      Wait--was the original story about, again?

  • So stupid (Score:3, Funny)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:21PM (#33778426)

    Anyone with a SAM can see if a plane is right there! They don't need an iPhone app to tell them what they are looking at is a plane. Have they had issues with terrorists accidentally targeting endangered condors with missiles by mistake?

  • by jandoedel (1149947) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:23PM (#33778444)
    I hope those terrorists don't know about the locations of any airports. Rumour has it that lots of planes fly near them...
  • by chaboud (231590) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:23PM (#33778448) Homepage Journal

    I get this argument from idiot alarmists all the time:

    "We can't allow for the last link of dissemination of information to the public at large to exist, but it's okay for the information to be available. We just need to make it *less* available."

    This sort of argument appears to stem from one or many of a few beliefs:

    1) Terrorists are too stupid to get this sort of information from less casual sources.
    2) Of all of the speedbumps to becoming a terrorist, figuring out where the flights are was the thing that was holding people back.
    3) They had no idea that we had this information available (this is a variant of 1),
    4) It's okay to leave information we consider dangerous out in the open, as long as you can't get it without knowing the right URL (or, in this case, the right frequencies). This isn't quite what crypto nerds mean when they say "security through obscurity isn't security at all," but it's pretty relatable.

    And to think, US Cyber command is under the impression that they don't need geeks. If this is what passes for an understanding of safety and security in our government, we're just doomed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by canajin56 (660655)
      You're attributing to the government, what was actually written as a sourceless editorial. Nobody is calling this a threat except the stupid newspaper, The Daily Fail. My god is the writing terrible and intentionally misleading. "...has now been labelled an 'aid to terrorists' by security experts and the US Department of Homeland Security is also examining how to protect airliners." They used an intentional run-on sentence to make it look like "Security experts and the DHS" are united in calling this a
  • Stupid argument (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spyfrog (552673) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:27PM (#33778480) Homepage

    This is a stupid argument because it is so extremely simple to figure out when to shoot down an aircraft with a SAM anyway.
    You already know the approximate time when it will takeoff since that is public knowledge since the passengers needs to know.
    Most airports has only one or two runways. You can easily figure out in which direction the plane is going to start (it will start at the same direction as the ones before it, probably into the wind).
    Now you can simply put ourself outside the airport at the point where the plane will fly right over you at a low altitude off perhaps a couple off hundred yards. The guys that photos planes position them self correct every time with this knowledge.

    The reality is that aircrafts is extremely exposed and easy to shoot down with SAMs since it is easy to get them during landing and takeoff and you can't fence off an area big enough to protect them.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:29PM (#33778510)

    tower: AC310 heavy drop to 30 thousand and proceed to outer marker on heading 31 you are clear for runway

    Hm, I wonder where AC310 heavy is ?

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:37PM (#33778588) Homepage

    That's what ADS-B is supposed to do [faa.gov] - give anyone who wants it a picture of what's in nearby airspace. It may have been a mistake to implement that capability and mandate that the transmitters be installed on aircraft. But, with that done, bitching about people using the data is pointless.

    An attacker could buy a general aviation ADS-B receiver [navworx.com] for $1495 and get the same data on an HP iPAQ. So this only protects against terrorists with very low budgets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by roman_mir (125474)

      OMG, I'll save you some money [www.lll.lu], not even terrorist should go broke on their quests.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by FroBugg (24957)

      Not very low budgets. I mean, they've got to afford the surface-to-air missiles first. But after the missiles all they had left was enough to buy an iPhone, a two-year contract, and a $2 app.

      And hopefully some lunch, because they're just gonna walk outside and wait until a plane shows up overhead in range, and they're gonna get hungry sitting there.

  • by hex0D (1890162) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:38PM (#33778608)
    ...approved 'Heisenberg' version will only give either the position or the speed of the plane, but never both.
  • step 4 ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thrillseeker (518224) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:42PM (#33778648)
    1. Write sourceless article about interesting software labeled by unnamed 'security experts' as 'a serious security threat'
    2. Mention that the Department of Homeland Security also thinks about security threats
    3. Get article mentioned on Slashdot where people still don't RTFM in any detail, but do like to shit bricks that mention DHS in any context
    4. Get traffic to ad-driven site
  • by quibbler (175041) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:44PM (#33779122)

    Thanks to the Streisand Effect [wikipedia.org], Plane Finder AR [apple.com] will doubtless skyrocket to the top of the charts by the end of the day.

    If this were a legitimate security risk, they just did about a thousand times the damage that it would have been had they ignored it. Pathetic. This is why efforts like the Cyber Command [wikipedia.org] is such an obvious failure to anyone with a lick of Internet-savvy before it was ever launched.

  • More likely concern (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Voline (207517) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:10PM (#33779316)

    As many here have pointed out, it's absurd to think that this app would be useful for a terrorist who has the resources to obtain a surface to air missile. If you're going to shoot down a civilian plane, do you really need to know the flight number? Or do you just pick the one you see above you?

    A more likely concern is that the device can be used to reveal government misconduct. It was hobbyist plane-spotters who, through their observations of civilian air traffic, exposed the CIA's Torture Jet flights [washingtonpost.com] or "extraordinary renditions", wherein they kidnapped people abroad and transferred them to third countries [newyorker.com] like Egypt, Jordan and Uzbekistan for interrogation using tortures that even the CIA wouldn't use (I guess there still are some).

    If the choice is between ceasing their crimes against humanity, or trying to cover them up better: they prefer the latter strategy.

  • app is kinda crappy (Score:3, Informative)

    by veg_all (22581) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:40PM (#33780516)

    I live in a flight path to LGA, planes go over every five or ten minutes and often *blink* the apartment with their shadows. Which is kinda neat. But I think there's a misapprehension about this app. I t doesn't receive ADS transmissions, it relies on (some group of users other than app users) to submit the data to a db. Planes fly over my apartment every five or ten minutes. I've had this app open for an hour and none of the overflying planes were reflected in the UI.

    Of course, if they were, I'da downed them with a SAM, which I never felt the need to do when they are flying over til now.

  • by the pickle (261584) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @10:42PM (#33780748) Homepage

    No US passenger airline has equipped with ADS-B yet. In fact, most of them are fighting tooth and nail *not* to, because they don't want to spend the money.

    The only thing the bogeyman of "terrorists" would be able to track with this app is UPS aircraft (UPS is helping the FAA test NextGen and has fleetwide ADS-B now, IIRC) and private planes that have chosen to equip with ADS-B.

    This is a non-story. Next.

    p

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