Ah yes, memory sticks.. those well known explosive devices....
Seriously, you couldn't fit enough C4 into one of those to light a match...
Someone taped a camera disguised as a USB thumb-drive to the wall of the toilet in a Boeing 767 aircraft on a flight to New York from San Francisco and caused an emergency landing in Kansas City when it was discovered. According to KCTV, American Airlines cabin staff discovered or were alerted to the toilet's unwanted wall- …
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You don't need a real bomb to scare people who are living in a constant state of paranoid hyper-awareness by being spoon fed worst case possibilities on a daily basis by politicians and the media.
In a horribly sad-funny commentary on modern Human civilization, people with very little to actually fear are far more strung out and subject to panic than people inside an actual war zone. We've created a situation where possibilities are more frightening than realities.
We've given terrorists and other unlikable sorts immense power by creating and nurturing an environment where neither threats of violence nor actual weapons are required to provoke a predefined defensive response among your enemy.
Forcing your opponent to respond to whispers and shadows to foment confusion and marginalize their resources by keeping them under constant stress is a time honored strategy, taught to first year students of such things. It's a strategy taught to novices as a thinking exercise because people don't fall for it anymore. Even at the height of the Cold War, US military commanders were very confused as to why they were able to dictate Soviet defense strategies and tactics. It was such an elementary mistake they thought it was a trick. No modern military had fallen for that on a national scale in hundreds of years. But it wasn't a trick. The Soviets were doing exactly what we're doing right now. Running at 95% of Full Panic Speed and burning through financial resources almost as fast as we did during WWII.
It's ultimately a negative sum equation we can never succeed at. Our tormentors have no resources to expend or budgets to manage. They satisfy their tactical requirements every time an old lady or child is throughly searched or an aircraft is forced to land because somebody found a USB drive. You can fight a war like that indefinitely, it costs nothing. Your opponents costs will escalate in perpetuity as every action they take increases the level of fear which can only be assuaged by taking ever more expensive and intrusive actions.
It's a classic Catch-22 situation and anyone even remotely familiar with military strategy or organizational leadership knows the very first thing you do when you've identified you're in a Catch-22 situation is to remove yourself from the situation. You never, ever remain in, or operate in, a situation that cannot be won. You change the terms of the situation and attack it from a position where you dictate the rules and there's at least a definable goal by which to measure success. What we're doing now has no end, it doesn't even have a definable goal. It's horridly stupid and very dangerous. Far more dangerous than a terrorist.
> In a horribly sad-funny commentary on modern Human civilization, people with very little to actually fear are far more strung out and subject to panic than people inside an actual war zone
Having grown up and subsequently spent part of my adult life on those, I cannot begin to tell you how right you are.
> meaning the perpetrator would be guilty of child porn offences.
Erm... Pictures of nude children in itself do not amount to child porn¹. There are probably a number of other laws that this likely violates, but not child porn ones.
¹ Unless you live in an ultra-overreacting, risk-averse, fanatically conservative society. And I do not wish to name names.
" How big an explosion would a piece of C4 of the size of a average USB stick create. Enough to puncture a pressurised airframe?"
Depends how it is applied. Consider that a USB stick has the volume of a couple of side arm gun cartridges, and C4 is probably somewhat more powerful than a firearm propellant, so the energy of perhaps three to five small arm rounds, each of which could punch a hole in the aircraft skin. Fag packet calculations based on energy density of historic explosives like RDX or PETN suggest we're talking about something of the order of 90 kJ.
So it could puncture the aircraft skin or a window in close proximity, probably would have to be very carefully positioned to cause serious damage to the airframe. From my thoroughly inexpert point of view, that is.
If the USB spy cam was like this one, then there really isn't a lot of volume there.
I'm not an explosives expert, but I think that C4 requires a detonator stick of some sort, i.e., a blasting cap to set it off properly. Doesn't it just burn otherwise?
So you'd have to have a tiny blasting cap, that might actually not do the job, and some HE, all in a very tiny space. Now, just taping it to the wall in the loo would only make it a noisy firecracker. Sure, it would cause the plane to land, but I doubt it would cause any injury. Perhaps it would cure constipation, though.
Yeh, but don't the major airports already sniff and scan for such explosives? I know that I've been through puffer/sniffer machines, the kind that search for airborne evidence of the minutest giveaway sizing.
I've been for about 8 years not suspicous that these scanners hold on to scan photos of objects for some amount of time. Hoaxes and real acts of terror would be more frightening if the authorities lazily, intentionally, or carelessly OPTED OUT of short-term storage of passengers' personal effects in the carry-on as well as the check-in.
Actually, live-scanning and photo capturing of all flown goods would probably help put a dent in theft of passenger goods, especially if some enterprising company would come up with tamper-evident seals or cords that require special procedures to open FOR inspection, not bust into, reseal, then apologize for rummaged contents.
Maybe the TSA or the airport unions nixed the options? Can't set up a de facto incrimination that baggage handlers ALL from time to time pilfer from luggage.
But, if the scans DO contain images of all luggage and carryon passed through the scanners, then it'll narrow down the questioning to JUST those people who walked into the scanner and who were within 3-5 people of the objects compared to and matching the prank or act evidence.
Is that too much to expect, or ask for? After all, we taxpayers have spent probablly a few trillion on funding the DHLS, TSA, and other letters. Oh, wait... Most of it probably went to labor, not real, useful tech, except that which snapped organs shots...
Maybe. It depends on the state of the art of the scanners. My brother went through the checkpoint in Frankfurt on his way to Atlanta several years ago with quite a bit of sodium azide in the cuffs of his pants (from installing the machine that packs airbags for an auto-maker) and it didn't set anything off. He didn't find it until he was doing laundry at home.
"Yeh, but don't the major airports already sniff and scan for such explosives? I know that I've been through puffer/sniffer machines, the kind that search for airborne evidence of the minutest giveaway sizing."
I can't say I've ever looked in to it, but I've always kind of assumed that these things are a bit of a hoax; designed more as a scary deterrence than actually as functional as they claim. Similar to how sniffer dogs actually have a very poor success rate (very high false-positive rate) but are still used in most airports.
> The sniffer dogs are to make you feel uncomfortable if you are doing something wrong
Which is why if you *are* doing "something wrong", or just want to annoy the customs people, you go and pet the dog. They'll give you a Master Bollocking and send you on your way. :-)
> I can't say I've ever looked in to it, but I've always kind of assumed that these things are a bit of a hoax;
Depends on the airport[*]. Some of them have quite involved measures, others nothing at all.
Not that it makes any real difference since a) very few people actually want to blow up aircraft (regardless of what the tellie says) and b) those who do feel so inclined, know what countermeasures you have in place and how to defeat them, then it all comes down to a quick cost vs. benefit calculation.
[*] Depends also on the airline (cough... El-Al... cough).
The explosives scanners and sample collection tabs only detect Pyrex and it's family, petrol (diesel, kerosene and unleaded) and good old fashion dynamite. They don't work with advanced explosives.
C4 and Thermite don't work like in the movies or video games either. They are primarily used in construction and demolition where a wide variety of lenses are used to concentrate and focus the energy onto a specific spot. Without a lens and/or enclosure C4 and similar explosives don't even really pop, they fizzle and start fires, no cool explosion.
Granted, a fire onboard an airplane is really, really bad, it's preferable to a great hole in a plane :)
"Consider that a USB stick has the volume of a couple of side arm gun cartridges"
Just how old are your flashdrives, anyway?
Anyway, you do know that aircraft are perfectly capable of flying with holes in them? "would have to be very carefully positioned to cause serious damage to the airframe" is correct.
Given a hypothetical bomb that size, who says the objective has to be depressurization?
Even if it "only" managed to kill one person, do you really think the rational action afterwards would be to fly on to the scheduled destination? Especially since the crew wouldn't know if that was the only device on the plane.
@ Enough to puncture a pressurised airframe?
asking such specific question, clearly identifies you as a TERRORIST, no less. The appropriate authorities (the specifics are classified based on the need-to-know regulations), shall apprehend you before your next flight having matched your nervous smirk / grin with the database profile.
> All it takes is to split the hull and air pressure, plus the 600mph breeze outside will do the rest.
No it doesn't, mate. As a former F/O (and therefore having a passing familiarity with aircraft) I can tell you the fucking things are impressively resilient. You should have seen my landings.
> Enough to puncture a pressurised airframe?
A "punctured" airframe is just a problem, not a catastrophe. A smallish hole will cause a lot of noise and the packs will have to work harder to maintain pressurisation. With a bigger hole, you may have gradual decompression, which will force you to lose altitude and land at the nearest practicable airport. An even bigger (and we're talking pretty big) hole, if produced instantaneously, could cause rapid or explosive decompression, which is a well-practised emergency (used to be my favourite!) but by itself it does not compromise the aircraft--it is likely, however, that there will be barotrauma injuries, hypoxia, and lots of screaming "We're going to die, etc!" from the back (of course you are, just not at this particular time, most likely).
The reason why this plane made an unscheduled landing is because that is the standard procedure for all airlines I'm aware of in the event of a suspicious, unidentified object being found on board. Even if you know there is no actual threat you still have to go through the motions unless you want to be subject to a disciplinary hearing.
(Former commercial pilot here)
Avoid the explosive route and go with thermite, it may not burn for long at that size, but it could be long enough to burn through the floor of the cabin and enter a luggage compartment (assuming it misses any wiring or hydraulic lines) - or just start in the overhead lockers, plenty of clothes/duty free gin there.
The BBC had a good documentary about the history of explosives. At one point, a wizened, wiry old boy was demonstrating plastic explosive. He placed a small amount of plastic explosive into a conical container, held a couple of inches above the 'target' ( a two-foot thick steel billet) by three little legs. Upon detonation, it punched a coin-sized hole through the steel billet. It was a powerful demonstration.
He explained that the explosive made the copper liner form a hypersonic jet (upwards of 7 KM per second) that penetrated steel as if it were a liquid.
That's a self forming fragment. You still need a fair bit of explosives to get this done... At least much more than I can get in any of my USB sticks. A cubic inch would still blow a hole through a window, but if you are into terror, cover it in steel shot and make a mini nailbomb...
The old boy in the BBC documentary turns out to be a gentleman called Dr Sidney Alford. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Alford
Turns out he has a website for anyone needing to make a hole in something in a hurry. Website is probably a good way to bring yourself to some agency's attention:
"The old boy in the BBC documentary turns out to be a gentleman called Dr Sidney Alford."
Yes, that's him. I just saw him on an episode of Kevin McClouds Man Made Home. They cut a Russian sea mine in half at a jaunty angle by wrapping a length of explosive "tape" around it (to make a BBQ). The mine was about 1" thick steel and and it was a lovely clean cut.
I'd estimate the "tape" was maybe 1/2" thick and an inch wide from what I could see of it. A " section of that would be about the size of some of the larger pendrives. You still need a detonator and something to trigger it though.
Two foot thick?
I am unconvinced. Doesn't matter how fast the copper slug is travelling, enough energy has to be supplied to break the bonds between the iron atoms, which are metallic. I simply don't think there is that much energy in a "small" amount of plastic explosive. Bazooka rounds couldn't penetrate a Tiger, and the armour on that was nothing like 2ft thick.
That, my lad, was a shaped charge, which was designed to direct the explosive energy at a specific target. A USB stick is a different form factor, and unless the "stick" was specially engineered, would pretty much result in an explosion into the compartment rather than directed into the bulk head.
I doubt a USB drive-sized bomb could bring down an airliner, perhaps even if it was directly against the fuselage.
Well, in this day and age of freaking out about everything....
(I wonder if the TSA had anything to say going through security about the mirrors on the perv's shoes?)
"3-6 months being "explored" in the showers"
I keep seeing that sort of comment about US prison "life" in the comment sections of El Reg and elsewhere. Are all US prisons really full of gay rapists? Or is this just some incredibly stupid meme that many USAians follow?
"Are all US prisons really full of gay rapists? Or is this just some incredibly stupid meme..."
I think it's just wishful thinking on the part of the commentards. Or something they obsess about. I've worked with many merkins, and phrases like 'You can suck my dick' or 'we just have to bend over and take it' seem to be very popular, particularly with the more macho members (pun unintended)
> particularly with the more macho members (pun unintended)
You mean the ones that watch scantily-clad, oil-covered, steroid-fuelled men choreographing "fight" scenes in which they touch and hug each other on prime-time TV? Yes, I've always wondered what would happen to all those Mucho Macho men if they stopped selling closets in the US. :)
NB: No offence to the openly gay who follow those shows (well, the acting is a bit rubbish, and steroid bags are really not my type, but each to their own).
I've been the victim of the aftermath of several explosive attacks on airplane restrooms, but they were more along the lines of biological warfare than anything else.
Still should have been more than enough to arrest the perps, though. Sheesh, sweaty 300lb dude who just squeezed out of the folding doors; what are they feeding you?
I was on this flight and was not kept warm - my hand currently has frosbite since we had to deplane in the freezing weather down an ice covered flight of stairs. We had to hold onto the railing not to fall down the steps, then were put on busses that were cold and moved into a cold terminal...I wish they would have provided blankets at the very least.
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