back to article No laptop ban on Euro flights to US... yet

The European Commission (EC) and the US have pushed back against moves for a wider ban on laptops on aircraft but talks on the subject will continue in Washington next week. Homeland security deputy Elaine Duke met two European Commissioners yesterday to discuss the need for extending the ban to flights from Europe to US …

  1. Andy 97
    Mushroom

    Clucking Bell!

    Hang on... isn't all that expensive x-ray hardware supposed to find explosives inside stuff?

    Or, are they worried that someone will be able to penetrate the avionics (of the aircraft) and crash it from a command line?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clucking Bell!

      "Or, are they worried that someone will be able to penetrate the avionics (of the aircraft) and crash it from a command line?"

      If it's running Windows, you can probably do it from a Word document. :)

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Clucking Bell!

        @AC

        I knew that Adobe rolling out "Flash for Flying" was a bad idea!

        1. DougS Silver badge

          It is because of the Mosul airport

          When ISIS took over Mosul, they had the run of its airport, which had been outfitted with the latest scanners that airports all over the world are using. That gave them plenty of time to figure out ways to package explosives in ways that evade detection.

          1. Mister Fluffy

            Re: It is because of the Mosul airport

            ISIL also had access to a moderately large University with laboratories and, importantly, the staff and students.

            Not keen on the switch to the ISIL syllabus?

            Off to the Tigris with this one.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Clucking Bell!

      No, it does not.

      It can identify (combined with a skilled operator) equipment which has obviously been altered and/or commonly used detonator components. It also has a very low rate of detection on "high end" computer kit because of the Aluminum alloy casing.

      It can also pick up several other things which nobody dares mention the name which are significantly more dangerous than explosives. As a chemist (who knows most of them) I will just leave it at that.

      It can pick up common weapons. It cannot pick up explosives and can be fooled easily. I have carried knives, tools and god knows what else through check-in by mistake more than once undetected because they were packed properly. Last time this Sunday - we forgot two repack into the hold luggage two small knives in the picnic basket while coming back from a weekend break.

      The Gas Mass spectography (*) units which are used for occasional inspection are significantly more reliable in picking up explosive traces.

      If you want to get some level of detection you have to run all electronic equipment via the gas-mass. At present gas samples are manually fed so this will not scale. However, making the sample feed automated is not that difficult, so if this is an issue this can easily be dealt with once and for all. Ditto for "nosing" into every bag - this can and should be easily automated.

      (*) They put those in after the liquid incident. When I saw them first I said out loud: "Oh, Gas Mass, my fav toy, how cute" (it was one of my fav toys as a student). I nearly got pulled off for a strip search there and then for speaking loudly what their new magic security theater component is

  2. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    Absolute right

    Of course the Russians have the absolute right to ignore a bumbling ejit, too. Or perhaps they forgot to follow him on twitter?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I keep thinking

    that basically the logical conclusion is; the US is saying x-raying carry on is pointless as it(they) can't detect bombs!? Awesome! But still we don't follow the lead of the Israelis

    I guess it'll still pickup a folding stock AK and spare mags.

    Edit: Dash, beaten to it by Andy. Pierre, yes, of course, this was all DT's doing! And you think he's an eejut!?

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Re: I keep thinking

      Well, no-flight policies ARE designed by ejits. The 100 mL rule stems from some murkin ejit failing to understand basic physics, and it's still in place after all that time. But that wasn't my point: evidently the airhead-in-chief didn't come up with this rule (pro'lly too busy grabbing small felines); he did, however, publish the 2-part tweet mentionned in the article. If there's anything more pityful than policy-by-tweet, it's policy-by-multipart-tweet.

      1. Ochib
        Pint

        Re: I keep thinking

        Limit of 100 mL was put in place so that people could still have hip flasks full of their favorite drink

        1. Kristaps
          Unhappy

          Re: I keep thinking

          Those are some small hip flasks mate

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: I keep thinking

            You get drunk easier at altitude. 100 ml is probably about as much as the airlines want people consuming during a flight anyway.

        2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: I keep thinking

          Wasn't it to improve sales of airside water bottles ?

          1. Number6

            Re: I keep thinking

            Not any more. I can take an empty drink container through security and fill it up from the water fountain airside (unless in China). US airports are even installing proper dispensers for the purpose.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    Maybe, Just maybe...

    Uncle Donny will belly up to a bowl full of peaches.... before this nonsense is implemented...

    1. handleoclast

      Re: Maybe, Just maybe...

      Going by the voting, half the readers didn't get your joke.

  5. Buzzword

    Weight limit

    How about a simple weight limit?

    If you're using a skinny iPad, you're safe. But if you're packing a 2003-era desktop replacement "portable", it goes into the hold. The exact figure for the weight limit should be determined based on how much weight of explosive would be required to cause real damage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weight limit

      Have you ever seen how much damage 20g of high explosive can do?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Weight limit

        "Have you ever seen how much damage 20g of high explosive one samsung Note 7 can do?"

        FTFY

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Weight limit

      The exact figure for the weight limit should be determined based on how much weight of explosive would be required to cause real damage.

      That is 20-50g of high explosive. Well within what you can pack into any laptop or tablet, even the thinnest one.

      The reason for the panic is elsewhere. If the explosive is INSIDE, you can conceal (and even integrate) the wiring needed to detonate it. Security crews are trained to recognize a standalone detonator. They will fail to recognize one inside a computer hooked up to what is supposed to be a battery - it will just look normal wiring to them.

  6. LDS Silver badge

    Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

    If Israeli agencies are so worried about the risk of an exploding laptop, why didn't they ban them on flights to Israel? Is there such restriction, and if not why they shouldn't be at risk while leaving the same EU or US airports? Why US airports should be safe, and EU ones not? Why terrorists shouldn't be interested in blowing up a plane full of Jews and Crusaders flying to Jerusalem? Only those flying to New York? Makes very little sense to me.

    I'm quite sure terrorists are trying to put explosives inside anything could be brought into an airplane, but till now it looks only US came up with "countermeasures" that looks more silly than useful. Or just useful to create a "siege" feeling for political reasons...

    1. sebt

      Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

      Why?.... simply because El Al, being the airline of Israel, a country which knows there are a lot of people who want to blow up its citizens, does proper security. Someone (maybe Bruce Schneier) wrote a long article about it.

      El Al-style security is time-consuming, expensive and involves highly-trained personnel. That's because it's security that takes security seriously.

      Everything else about airline security is just gesturing security-theatre, intended only as a pork-barrel and to simultaneously worry and reassure the proles. Security-_theatre_ in the sense of "local primary school nativity play".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

        "El Al-style security is time-consuming, expensive and involves highly-trained personnel. That's because it's security that takes security seriously."

        I've flown from Heathrow from the terminal used by El Al wihen one of their flights was leaving around the same time as mine - when you get to the entrance to the security where they check your boarding card then anyone with a El Al card was sent to to a completely seperate security area.

      2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

        That's because it's security that takes security seriously.

        Israel knows what it's doing. This is why there hasn't been a terrorist attack on an El Al since the 70's. The US don't know that patience nor the time to train high school dropouts on how to spot a potential security threat even though it was dancing naked in front of them. This is why the American's way is to simply throw money (oodles of it) at the problem and hoping someone will solve it for them.

        The US send planeload of their agents to Tel Aviv to watch and learn how the Israelis did it. In the end, they fly back home, write a thick report (another American forte) only for the said report to be thrown into the "too hard" basket.

        1. scrubber

          Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

          They (US agents) also come back (from Israel) recommending religious and racial profiling which is not currently acceptable in the US due to The Constitution.

          Unlike in the UK where our historic rights are completely ignored but we won't do (non-Irish) racial or religious profiling because PC.

          I'm not necessarily in favour of this type of profiling, but I am in favour of doing it, or not, for the right reasons and the UK is certainly not doing that.

        2. Tannin

          Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

          "The US send planeload of their agents to Tel Aviv to watch and learn how the Israelis did it. In the end, they fly back home, write a thick report (another American forte) only for the said report to be thrown into the "too hard" basket."

          Sorry. I don't believe it. Since when were the US security people well-trained enough to master complicated technology like pencils?

      3. LDS Silver badge

        "simply because El Al"

        Does El Al have specific detection equipment in any airport from which planes flies to Israel, and vet anybody in those airports?

        I'm quite sure it near to impossible to board a bomb in Tel Aviv where they have full control, but what about planes flying to Tel Aviv? Sure, they may undergo some higher standards, but, still, they are airports not under their control.

        And how many Emirates airplanes were ever attacked? Terrorists may have several reasons too to avoid them, and the security of those airport is not the same of the African airport where the last bomb was boarded. I'm sure in some African airports you can try to board an elephant, and with proper bribes achieve it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "simply because El Al"

          Does El Al have specific detection equipment in any airport from which planes flies to Israel, and vet anybody in those airports?

          Actually they do, El Al does their own baggage screening in overseas airports.

        2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

          Re: "simply because El Al"

          Does El Al have specific detection equipment in any airport from which planes flies to Israel, and vet anybody in those airports?

          As far as I understand, they do. Everybody vets - passenger information is vetted through multiple agencies by all airlines, that's how those no-flight lists also work. But I've flown El Al and they have their own security personnel in every airport in which they operate and they start screening you before checkin (i.e., way before general airport security). They also never let your luggage out of sight between checkin and the hold. I suppose all that puts a brake on cutting costs...

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

      Simple... Israel considers such silly security theatre just that... They have *much* more effective mechanisms to identify potential terrorists and prevent them from boarding any planes to/from Tel Aviv. They tend to be somewhat (overly and rightly) paranoid given their history and their location.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

      Or just useful to create a "siege" feeling for political reasons...

      Bingo.... we are getting a culture in this county of "big brother will watch out for us". That and power. Look at the recent history of more restrictions, more control and all in the name of "safety". And that includes those who don't want encryption and full access to everyone's computer.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

      Have you been on a flight to/from Tel Aviv? Especially if the check-in desk person has taken dislike to you and have marked you for extra screening?

      I had my bag run through the scanner gear 11 times and a cute nice young lady go through it by hand twice more. After that I was given seat in a sector where the trolley dolly not know how to hand out coffee. During the hungriest days after the fall of the wall I had to repair the mob's computers a few times so I recognized the type instantly. His primary function was definitely not serving coffee. It was the type of function you expect from a person who has well defined lifetime "sniper" calluses.

      After that, I noticed that the pilot is flying the plane all the time in the coffin corner - 13000m+ Just in case somebody down there has gotten a hold of anything shoulder launched (or even small vehicle based ones).

      It was an interesting experience, but one I will never ever repeat again. Flying El Al? No thank you.

      We neither have the financial resources, nor the people to crew the level of security they deploy.

      1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

        Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

        if the check-in desk person has taken dislike to you and have marked you for extra screening?

        That would cause you grievance in any airport and with any airline today.

        We neither have the financial resources, nor the people to crew the level of security they deploy.

        I actually think that most (Western?) countries have the people who could be trained and deployed for the purpose, with adequate pay so the "right" people will apply and stay. And financial resources can be made available. This would, however, be in the way of the drive to lower the costs. There are no meals on flights nowadays, and even soft drinks are not free (hopefully water still is, most of the time), all in the name of the "bottom line". Paying for real security seems a non-starter under the circumstances.

        The Israelis take security seriously, and bear the costs. I don't see why others can't, but for the lack of will.

        1. Citizen99
          Meh

          Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

          " I actually think that most (Western?) countries have the people who could be trained and deployed for the purpose, with adequate pay so the "right" people will apply and stay. "

          Hmm... but I wonder, would 'non-discrimination' legislation allow you to profile the people that you were recruiting ? Hmm...

    5. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

      If Israeli agencies are so worried about the risk of an exploding laptop, why didn't they ban them on flights to Israel?

      Israeli security rather famously look for a bomber first, for a bomb second. Makes things scalable. Everybody else does the scalability (a.k.a. "profiling") bit, too, event as they try to pretend they don't (hint: "you have been randomly selected for additional screening" is anything but random), but there is a difference between highly educated and trained personnel with security background following well thought through procedures and techniques and minimum wage TSA drones following a "security for dummies" instruction book.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

        This may be from a comedy list type site, but every now and again they interview some interesting people.

        The link below was written by the former head of security for Israels airport

        http://www.cracked.com/blog/7-reasons-tsa-sucks-a-security-experts-perspective/

    6. G.Y.

      NZ, Canada &Australia Re: Why Israel didn't ban electronic devices on flights to Tel Aviv?

      also to the point: NZ, Australia &Canada share "5 eyes" intelligence with the US. If they have not banned laptops, what is different about the US?

  7. werdsmith Silver badge

    Imagine trying to implement El Al style security for every body at every airport in and to the US.

    The number of travelling passengers must be orders of magnitude more.

    1. FuzzyWuzzys

      So basically it's the usual project management mentality, "You want it done right or done quick? You can't have both!"

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      @werdsmith

      If you were to deploy Israel-style security at several airports, you'd probably find they'd move somewhat quicker than the TSA does, primarily because the check-in agents would've been part of the process and would've considered looking at the traveller and made notes, as would agents who roam amongst the great unwashed in the concourse. That all would've culminated in most of the sheeple in the TSA queue being marked as 'armed but not dangerous' or 'sheeple, give 'em a scan and let them go'.

      That *would* however require check-in and gate agents to be trained beyond what they are currently trained for, airlines/airports would have to employ extra staff, and passengers would have to get used to the big evil P word... 'Profiling'. Lawyers love that word, especially in the sneeze-in-my-direction-and-I'll-sue-you US of A.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pertaining to WTF

    Still re-reading Donald Parp's tweet. Still have no idea what it means.

    1. Tim Jenkins

      Re: Pertaining to WTF

      That's OK. Neither does he.

    2. John McCallum
      Windows

      Re: Pertaining to WTF

      probably three sheets to the wind when he wrote them

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Pertaining to WTF

        Apparently Donald Trump doesn't drink: this is him sober. A sobering thought.

        I believe he isn't quite as stupid as he seems - not far off though, but a bit more cunning than you think he is. That's how he survived in business (except when he didn't) and got to where he is now.

        Is he up to his job? Well, Republicans apparently like very stupid presidents. The list is long. But if he's really crossed Mossad, that can be a bit fatal.

        Presidents in general seem to like a vice-president who is a far worse proposition, and who willingly goes along with creating this impression; in this case Mike "Handmaid's Tale" Pence. But I think he may be insufficiently awful to save Trump's tamales.

        1. Tannin

          Re: Pertaining to WTF

          "I believe he isn't quite as stupid as he seems - not far off though, but a bit more cunning than you think he is."

          Yep. So cunning he managed to bankrupt a casino. That's some serious talent.

  9. Alistair Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Laptop Bombs.

    Well, the US had it from reliable source. < Now supposedly the suggestion is the Israeli security folks >. I seem to recall a slip of paper about yellowcake coming from a reliable source as well.

    ( I may be away for a while, just in case )

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Laptop Bombs.

      But a laptop can contain red-mercury which terrorists can use to open a stargate and defeat the x-men, I saw it on Fox

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "I wanted to share with Russia [..] which I have the absolute right to do"

    I note with great interest that The Donald has taken to preemptively justify his actions. Here he is warning everyone that he has the right to share data with Russia in an open conference.

    A far cry from his behavior a month ago, where he would have just gone and done it, then when being called out for it, treated everyone like shit and ignored them.

    Might The Donald be able to learn, or is there a dangerously exhausted intern in there with the sole job of continuously warning one carrot-topped nitwit that he "might want to word that differently" ? If the latter, I hope that that poor person has excellent medical coverage, 'cause it'll be needed !

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Then again

      I think I found a bit more information on that remark thanks to Stephen Colbert. I should have guessed that this goes deeper than I thought when I read that line.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Workaround

    Maybe I'm thinking about this too simply but wouldnt it be OK to just shut the computer down, remove the batter yand put THAT in check-in luggage? Surely that is the solution if this laptop ban does go ahead which will mean I save kg's in the checked-in bags and, more importantly, safeguard my data!.OK I can't use my laptop but I'd rather it wasnt lost by BA or something.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Workaround

      But many laptop batteries aren't removable these days. Not without some disassembly, at least.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Workaround

      it's the Li-Ion battery in the hold that is dangerous. You should remove the battery, put the laptop in checked baggage and then carry-on the battery

  12. -tim
    Mushroom

    Barometers?

    From another post...

    There are barometers that are drop in replacements for most of the temperature sensors in a laptop or phone. The cpu that reads those isn't the main processor so it can run a very long time and is running in a semi-sleep mode most of the time when the laptop is "off".

    The mini-cpu that those are hooked to has direct control to the battery charging circuit. I don't think this stuff should be where people can't help out putting out the fires.

  13. TheProf
    Joke

    Hand luggage

    I always repack my Semtex in Hershey wrappers. The benefits of this are twofold.

    First, I'm not tempted to eat the stuff.

    Second, if I am forced by the security staff to eat some of it, at least it doesn't taste as bad as American chocolate.

  14. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I was hoping this would be implemented

    Sad. I was hoping it would piss off enough people that either the security theatre would be revealed for what it is, or possibly some of the crap airlines would go bankrupt. (which would be all of them)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coming soon....

    You will be only be able to fly wearing an Orange Jumpsuit (no shoes naturaly or clothes underneath).

    No hold or cabin baggage will be permitted.

    All because of a possibility of someone doing something nasty.

    Well, if the US DHS had their way, that would be the way we would all have to travel.

    Every move that Trump America makes them more like the Lepers of the 21st Century.

    Why would anyone want to go there at the moment is beyond me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Coming soon....

      It's not just Trump; it's been 43, 44, and now 45 ratcheting up the oppression, I mean security, in air travel. (To NSA, really, that was a typo).

      I think of one metaphor and one quote: First, the frog brought to boil in a pot. Second, George Carlin's astute observation that "the word 'bipartisan' usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."

  16. John Robson Silver badge

    Is my laptop going to get stuck out there then? Flying out for the week on Monday (only a week, so hand luggage only).

    If 45 carries on like this then is there a chance that I'll get in with my laptop but not be able to get back?

  17. Number6

    Unless it's a complete ban, laptops in the cabin are way safer than laptops in the hold, unless people are required to surrender them at check-in to be placed in a secure fire-proof container in the hold.

    Given that the authorities don't want people to lock their checked luggage, who's going to compensate me if my checked laptop doesn't get reunited with me at baggage claim?

    It sounds way too much like someone said "Something Must Be Done" and this was the result.

  18. jrchips

    Where are the airline's customers in all this? Who is speaking for them?

    Long haul flights, especially for Business and First customers, are places where serious work gets done on laptops. So banning laptops is a huge productivity hit. Worse those same execs will now have to wait for their checked baggage, a no-no for most busy execs. And then there's the risk of pilfering and missing bags.

    If the issue is getting commercial quantities of a detection system out there quickly, let's say so and focus on that. Instead there's a rush to hugely inconvenience the folks who pay the freight. Makes no sense.

  19. Herby Silver badge

    Pilots use laptops as well...

    And they are going to ben these as well? The trend now is to have this "electronic flight bag" (Boeing term) travel with the pilot instead of all the paper stuff they would normally carry.

    If this DOES go through, and pilots aren't exempt, it might be very interesting.

    As for things in the hold, what about Galaxy Note 7's that were the subject of "flame on" switches a while back? In the hold? Not good!

    1. Michael Hoffmann
      Facepalm

      Re: Pilots use laptops as well...

      Having stood in a line at US airport security (domestic flight, Phoenix Skyharbor) next to the captain who was going to fly the plane I was heading for and watching him take off his shoes and have his bag scanned, told me all I needed to know.

      I started blurting out "but, you're flying the aircraft, if you wanted to bring it down, you could just..." and stopped just in time as I didn't want probes stuck into every orifice by the TSA. The pained look and nod he gave me I shall always remember.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perplexed

    Here is the part I don't understand: If I can' t fly to the US with a laptop on a flight that originates in country a: what is to stop me from flying to country b, then booking a flight to the US from there? Or handing the laptop off to someone else in country b to book a flight?

    1. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: Perplexed

      "Here is the part I don't understand: If I can' t fly to the US with a laptop on a flight that originates in country a: what is to stop me from flying to country b, then booking a flight to the US from there? Or handing the laptop off to someone else in country b to book a flight?"

      Or just FED EX the laptop to your destination? With or without hard drive which apparently could be carried on the aircraft?

  21. Milton Silver badge

    implemented in software

    In other news, top evil mastermind coder Terror al-Bstard has decided that his minions will carry unmodified, bombless laptops on planes in the hope that these will be stashed in the hold. Al-Bstard's code will wake the devices at 37,000 feet and put them through tough benchmarks for several hours in anticipation that sooner or later, one will overheat.

    The laws of averages await ...

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: implemented in software

      Doesn't need his minions - just WannaCry with a more subtle payload.

  22. David Pearce

    Carry on laptops can be demonstrated working, limiting a parasitic bomb to the size of a DVD drive or a battery cell. Laptops don't come with any empty space.

    Checked in won't be seen working, so could be a complete internal swap out, just keeping the motherboard to look right on xray. That should give a device in the kilos range

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