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US Says Plane Finder App Threatens Security 524

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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  • 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.

  • by ryanleary ( 805532 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:27PM (#33778486)

    What a feat [], a simple cheesy iPhone app that has pilots quaking in their boots.

    Do not click parent link. Goatse. I need to wash my eyes out.

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

    That's what ADS-B is supposed to do [] - 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 [] for $1495 and get the same data on an HP iPAQ. So this only protects against terrorists with very low budgets.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:49PM (#33778712) Journal

    You can buy them and fly them, but the feds will make you prove that they're not carrying any ordnance.


  • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @04:58PM (#33778790) Homepage

    Oh how I wish...

  • by FroBugg ( 24957 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:10PM (#33778886) Homepage

    Maybe they speak English and read this from the article The 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

    You need to finish reading sentences. The actual line reads, "The 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."

    That means security experts have called it an aid to terrorists, and that the DHS is looking into protecting airlines (which they're kind of always doing, since it's their job). It does not mean that DHS has called it an aid to terrorists.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:12PM (#33778896)
    They aren't stealing from you. Most of them pay taxes and few of them actually get any government services. The jobs that they take are ones that even now in this economy are going unfilled in terms of legal workers.

    The UFW has been trying to get people to come take those jobs, and it's been tough going, few people are desperate enough to take the jobs. I'm not sure what the current number is, but as of when Colbert was covering on his show, the number was under 20, and definitely way under a hundred.
  • 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.

  • Re:OMG (Score:4, Informative)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:43PM (#33779114) Journal
    Loving the fact that you're showing up as a "Score: 0, Insightful"!

    You're absolutely right, and it's all rather sad. We're talking about data at the end of the day, and as we're all aware it can work all ways. American Airlines' website is custom designed to produce data of use to "terrorists". As is the UK government website, Slashdot, CNN and Google.

    All of them intentionally produce useful data from a huge set. This data can be used for terrorism. And booking flights, reading the news or finding things incidentally.

    For those who don't know the Daily Mail, they're technically a UK newspaper but are frequently closer to Stewart/Colbert satire, if unintentionally. They basically use conservative outrage to push the paper, and usually promote "the enemy" in the process. There was an unofficial competition between various alcoholic drink manufacturers a few years back to see who could get the most publicity from the Daily Mail by producing a 40% ABV drink and subtly suggesting it was worse than .
  • Re:OMG (Score:4, Informative)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:43PM (#33779120) Journal

    >>>BGE does not have a monopoly

    Yeah Maryland has choice for the supplier, but who owns the electric wires and natural gas pipes? BGE.

  • by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:11PM (#33779324)
    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 terrorist program. But no, they're just changing subjects mid sentence and telling you that the US government doesn't want airplanes shot down. Also, whenever an article says "Some say" they mean "We say". So, it's just a scaremonger site, what a joke. They managed to troll you pretty well though.
  • by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:35PM (#33779492) Homepage

    That would be the US, not the UK. []

  • by shrtcircuit ( 936357 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:11PM (#33779704)
    No. From TFA (anyone here even read this shit anymore?): "The firm behind the app, Pinkfroot, uses a network of aircraft enthusiasts in Britain and abroad, who are equipped with ADS-B receivers costing around 200 pounds to intercept the information from aircraft and send it to a central database."

    Places like FlightAware and others actually have a direct feed from the FAA which provides, among other things, radar data of aircraft all around the US. FAA feeds are required to be delayed, with the only exception being that if you have a flight dispatch operation (i.e. airline, big corporate aviation, etc) you can get it realtime - however are under strict guidelines not to release it to anyone else. Even the delayed providers generally can't just replay the data by itself.

    Also the thought of encrypting the data is stupid. You have probably dozens of manufacturers of receivers and transceivers, it is foolish to think the keys wouldn't be compromised. In addition it's one more layer of potential issues, and when you are relying on that system to maintain spacing in zero visibility, you just want it to work period.

    Not to mention, like others have said, there are easier ways to target an aircraft (like when they are lower and slower).
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:24PM (#33779786)

    If you comply with Federal requirements, you can own (and shoot!) artillery.

    It's a bit expensive, so you usually find only mortars and cannon for sale.*&Cat=3100&Items=50 []

    The owners are typically well-behaved, and it isn't a poor man's hobby.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @08:56PM (#33780312)

    Not overly relevant to your argument, but the British/Welsh Longbow predates guns and was a fairly democratic weapon - the peasants were legally required to practice with it and it was not a particularly expensive weapon and quite effective against the French knights in its time.

  • 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.


  • by modecx ( 130548 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @12:38AM (#33781458)

    The Congress shall have Power To... (Paragraphs 1-15)
    Paragraph 16:

    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

    Using one very long sentence to describe a subject with so very much more history is... Well, it's beyond a little bit myopic. For greater context, I'd point to the various times founding fathers mused on this subject, but I'm sure if you can find Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 16, you can also find such items of historical interest.

    Anyway...The power vested in Paragraph 16 was realized by the Militia Acts of 1792, enacted by the second congress and signed into law by George Washington himself:

    That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia........every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, **provide himself** with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of power and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and power-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service......and **providing himself** with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.*

    *For the sake of brevity, I truncated verbose text I felt didn't add to the overall meaning of the act.

    The reason Congress wanted the power to arm and discipline the militia was so that they could later direct militiamen to prepare themselves for duty by appropriating the proper, standard duty weapon of the time. This is for the sake of sound military logistics. A soldier mustering with nonstandard equipment unless otherwise ordered is a liability to his unit. In modern terms, they'd probably find themselves the current standard duty weapon of the armed services: an M-16 rifle--and whatever ammo, magazines, mag pouches, etc.

    That was the state of affairs until the Militia Act of 1903, which created a federal funded militia (i.e. National Guard), as well as preserved what it termed the unorganized militia (i.e. everyone able bodied male--this time expunging the limitation to white males). When I hear someone meekly say "but guns should only be in the hands of the police and military", I chuckle to myself under the realization that legally, that person has a significant chance of being a militiaman (him)self. After all, it's this very law which opens the door to selective service, established in 1917.

    However, being faithful to the ideals of the Constitution I'd go one step further and say that *all able-bodied citizens* are at the very least part of the unorganized militia, and are subject to all of the rights and duties associated with that end (such as being proficient, disciplined, etc.) The particular implementation of government as realized by the founding fathers may have been wanting in any number of ways--but it's my opinion and belief that the words they used, and the ideas those words represent ring ever true today.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:29AM (#33783820)

    Not to mention the crossbow, which has the added advantage over the (long)bow that it doesn't require anywhere near the skill to use effectively.

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.