Before an airplane takes off the runway, air hostesses caution passengers to switch off electrical devices for the sake of safety.
The rule to switch off all phones before take-off has generated controversies. Is this rule really necessary? What harm does it really present? Why should it be a matter of note? Passengers connected to wireless during take-off create risk of exposure to hackers; monitoring by terrorists, or disrupting navigation and communication channels, hence the caution.
This all boils down to these highlights; is it really a threat to keep one’s phone on before and after departure? Does it pose a risk to the safety of other passengers?
A staff from the Operations department at Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) who requested anonymity, revealed the importance of keeping phones inactive during operations.
He said that ignoring such a rule may result in unwarranted navigational issues and security risks that could work against the objective of the organisation. “The plane runs a risk of being hijacked, a slim chance, yet possible,” he said.
“Your device could very well lead the way for a terrorist attack; to help them keep tabs on a plane for their nefarious purpose. Although once appliances are turned off, communication is mute. But when on, plans to facilitate criminal plots could be enacted by outside charges through connections from the inside,” he continued.
“Laying emphasis on the joint effort needed to achieve joint security. Everyone plays their part in the insurance of safety, which is why it is important for passengers to obey these instructions for the joint safety of all. When appliances are on, chances are taken against collective security,” he said.
International airlines now provide wireless internet connection for passengers. Nigerian airlines might be testing the same waters soon, as one of its airlines, Air Peace Hopper, a regional subsidiary of Air Peace, revealed they are in the process of installing Wi-Fi in all its flights, but that the service is limited.
As time gives way to change and technology’s fruits expand, vigilance against cybercriminal attacks must be sharpened; attacks that would render loss to a journey of proposed growth must be apprehended.
According to Gerald Dillingham, United States director on civil aviation issues, it is possible with just a laptop to commandeer an aircraft; put a virus into flight control computers, jeopardise the safety of flight by taking control of computers and take over the warning systems or even navigation systems. “Older planes that are not dominantly run with internet-based systems, run a lower risk of such exposure,” he said.
Furthermore, US.Norton.com noted in-house Wi-Fi connection is far from secure, especially inflight connection. Cybercriminals can target Wi-Fi networks used by travellers. In fact, they count on tourists getting into “vacation mode” and letting down their guard, unless they are protected.
US.Norton.com revealed that hackers could access your connection while on public Wi-Fi and steal the private information you transmit; from bank account numbers to email messages and social media passwords. This might enable them to steal your money or take over your accounts. One can pick up a virus or malware that could infect one’s device and cause technical headaches long after landing,” it said.
Emmanuel Chukwuemeka, a cyber security expert, explained the risk of having devices exposed to foreign Wi-Fi connections outside personalised ones.
“Once your device is linked to a foreign internet provider, you stand the risk of getting hacked; because through that connection, you have granted access to your device and that allows them to monitor whatever is done in your system; be it a phone or laptop.
“You have to be cautious; know the Wi-Fi you’re connected to (even that can be hacked). Do not carelessly connect to public ones, free ones. Because then you are giving them access to you; your every move is monitored, what you are doing, where you are, what you are browsing on,” he said.
Chukwuemeka cautions strict vigilance against hackers, for they are consistent and crafty. Any show of vulnerability and they have their way in.
“Make sure your password is unique, hard to guess. And because these hackers work round the clock, be cautious. You could even receive a link from them, unmindful of the threat the link poses. But such a link could have you vulnerable to criminal devices. You could be trapped in their scheme,” he added.
Asides from the risks mentioned above, there are other complications that could strike a plane momentarily.
Shawn Pruchnicki, professor at the center for aviation studies at Ohio State University, relayed the main problem linked to interferences with a plane’s navigation systems; how precise and thorough these signals are followed in order to avoid error or complication. Complications that could very well lead to a cry for help status.
“Where it really counts is upon landing, especially when we’re doing an instrument landing. Those signals are very precise and the autopilot flying those signals is also very precise. This is not the time when you want any variability at all, especially when you have terrain considerations,” he said.
Similary, Rose Etumudon, a passenger waiting at MMA airport, gave her view on keeping to said instructions, regardless of any slight inconvenience it might pose on the side of time and business.
She said: “While you might want to make an important call in the plane, it is also important to obey the instructions given so that if anything happens, you will not be sighted as one who has had a hand in the problem; especially in this country Nigeria. This country will not want to go through and see what is right and wrong, you will just be blamed once and that is it. So we need to obey them.”
In an atmosphere where carefulness tries to stand toe to toe with adventure, one must take due notice of security standpoints. The aviation sector is not only interested in transporting people from one geographical point to the other, it is also invested in the welfare of its customers.
So it is important to be informed about the threats that grow as weeds and be prepared against them. What is important is keeping safe and being careful with technical threats.