Feeds

iPhone app tagged as terror tool

Tory MP decries jihad juicing 'madness'

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

A Tory alarmist is squawking about the technology behind an iPhone app that he claims could enable an airline-hunting terrorist to more easily stalk his prey.

"Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness," Tory MP Patrick Mercer told the Daily Mail. "The Government must look at outlawing the marketing of such equipment."

Yes, that Patrick Mercer — the same worthy who warned of explosives in terroristic breast implants, and of HIV-infected needles in Taliban bombs. Incidentally, he's also the man claimed to have stuck his mistress with an £8K bill for flat-refurbishment, and the character who was sacked by David Cameron for alleged racist remarks.

Plane Finder AR

Plane Finder finds targets aplenty in and around Heathrow

The target of Mercer's condemnation is the technology behind Plane Finder AR, which uses data from the publicly available Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) system that airlines are deploying to improve flight tracking and traffic control.

Plane Finder uses that data to provide an augmented-reality display of a commercial flight's number, registration, speed, altitude, and distance when a handset's camera is aimed at an airliner either parked or in flight.

And a terrorist needn't be concerned with juggling his FIM-92 Stinger while attempting to hold his iPhone correctly in order to get a decent signal. He could also choose either Plane Finder HD for the iPad or just plain Plane Finder for Android.

For that matter, a bad guy could simply buy his own ADS-B receiver for around £200, and hook it up to a Windows box running software such as PlanePlotter. And if the terror-minded miscreant is baffled by the intricacies of a USB A/B cable, he could simply install personal ADS-B software such as AirNav Systems' AirNav Live Flight Tracker, which gets its data online.

That USB bafflement would be understandable, considering the technical competence exhibited by luckless losers such as Times Square bomb bozo Faisal Shahzad, Nigerian crotch bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and shoe bomber and finalist in "World's Ugliest Man" contest Richard Reid.

Those jihadist jugheads could hardly put together a system as intricate as that used by Plane Finder's developer, Pinkfroot, which gathers its data from a network of ADS-B receiver–equipped aircraft enthusiasts and compiles it into a central database that's accessed by its apps.

All the data is open to the public — although if fearmongers such as Mercer continue to stoke public sentiment, it may not be for long.

"We have packaged information that is freely broadcast," Lee Armstrong, a Pinkfroot director, told the Daily Mail. "We haven't had any objection from the authorities in the UK or anywhere else in the world."

The UK Department for Transport isn't particularly worried, either. A spokesman told the Daily Mail: "This application might be new but the ability to track aircraft isn't."

Finally, it is to be noted that according to many of the Plane Finder reviews in the iTunes App Store, the only terror attacks engendered by the app are bugs and a cascade of error messages.

In sum, it appears highly unlikely that Plane Finder will hatch heinous-halfwit havoc. The hullabaloo over the app has merely resulted in more ink for Mercer and free publicity for Pinkfroot. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.