Smartmobs has picked up a Wired story about federal security agencies worrying about broadband systems on aircraft. Their concern is apparantely that terrorists could use them to communicate with other terrorists on the same or other aircraft, or to remotely detonate a bomb.
I guess I'm missing something, but I don't understand how airborn broadband technology will give terrorists an ability they don't have today.
To communicate with others in the same or different aircraft, can't a terrorist just use a cell phone? If they don't want to talk out loud, it seems like they could still use a cell modem plugged into their laptop and instant messaging software. (Or if they're on the same plane, middle-school tricks like passing notes or Morse code "absent-mindedly" tapped out with a pencil might even work.)
To remotely detonate an explosive, what's to stop a plain old direct radio link? Something along the lines of a garage door opener with beefed-up transmission power?
Again, maybe I'm missing something central here, but it doesn't seem like the agencies involved have carefully considered the threat model. Rather than concentrating security on only one possible communication channel, it seems like it would be more productive to put the effort into detecting the explosives, putting sky marshals on the plane, and/or maybe modifying cargo holds to have blow-out panels.