Stupid WiFi Hotspot Name Gets American Airlines Flight Grounded

from the because-terrorists-would-name-their-terrorist-network-something-terroristic dept

America: land of the ass coverage policy and home of "better safe than sorry." Free and brave? Not so much. If anyone wants to know if the terrorists have won, here's another one to file under "Exhibit A: Yes, At Least A Sizable Partial Victory."

When some dumbass can keep planes from flying simply by renaming a WiFi hotspot, we as a nation cannot claim to have won the War on Terror, much less to be picking up some easy points during "trash time."

An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London was delayed Sunday after concerns over the name of a WiFi hotspot.

A passenger saw the WiFi connection, named "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork," and expressed concern to a flight attendant.

Flight 136 was taken back to the gate and delayed until 1 p.m. Monday, American Airlines officials said.
This delayed the flight for three hours. Those grounded by the quite-obviously-not-a-wireless-Al-Qaeda-hotspot were initially told it was a "maintenance problem." How fucking comforting is that? Instead of admitting to being pranked into submission by a single person, the airline instead chose to frame it as something with a much larger potential of killing its flying customers.

"Nothing to do with terrorists here, folks! Just the small chance that the plane you'll eventually be boarding may not be airworthy!"

According to ABC7's report, the airline is "assessing" the situation. And, of course, "law enforcement has been notified," because that's what we do when we have no idea what to do. Someone "said" something terrorist-related, therefore law enforcement, assessments, flight delays and NOT A SINGLE COOL HEAD PREVAILING ANYWHERE. May your paranoia always be unfettered.

LOOKS LIKE I PICKED THE WRONG WEEK TO STOP FREAKING OUT ABOUT GODDAMN EVERYTHING.

The WiFi hotspot naming option has been routinely abused in the past, all without serious harm coming to anyone involved. The Consumerist reminds us that another dumbass delayed a Southwestern flight by naming a hotspot "Bomb on Board" -- a name more credibly threatening than the misspelled joke listed above.

And let's not forget how many citizens have pranked/startled wardrivers and leeches by naming their wireless connections things like "FBI_SURVEILLANCE_VAN." Give anyone the power to name something and it will quickly gravitate towards 4th-grade-level Mad Libs. Hence why any video game in which you can name your protagonist becomes a playground for swear words and dick jokes [timesink]. It also explains why my sons' loadout presets for Call of Duty: Black Ops are named "pokemon," "pewd" and "POOP" respectively.

Does anyone actually think this hotspot name indicated terrorist activity? I mean, other than the person reporting the WiFi hotspot name, the person acquiescing to the complainant's paranoia, the entire chain of command responsible for delaying the flight, the law enforcement officials who actually decided to investigate… never mind. I don't even want to know the answer. It's too depressing.

Filed Under: airplanes, networks, terrorism, wifi
Companies: american airlines


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  1. icon
    MrTroy (profile), 28 Oct 2014 @ 8:51pm

    Re: Re: Depressing but predictable.

    but I agree that it's a tough call on both sides. Do something and you risk overreacting. Do nothing and you risk endangering passengers.

    Do you? Do you really?

    I mean, letting the plane take off AT ALL risks endangering passengers. Delaying the flight also has distinct and measurable impact on the lives of passengers.

    Consider... In what possible universe could this be a credible threat? You're positing the existence of a terrorist that is simultaneously competent enough to build or acquire a wifi-triggered bomb, get it onto the plane undetected and have it located somewhere that it will do enough damage to matter, and fly so completely under the radar that there's no other evidence of risk to the flight... yet so incompetent that not only do they broadcast their SSID, but they think the irony in the name is worth risking the entire operation?

    Even if such a terrorist exists, what's the worst they can do? As soon as he (she?) threatens to detonate the bomb he'll have half of the rest of the passengers pinning him to the ground and loosening his teeth the old fashioned way - no hijacking there. Or detonate the bomb and take out everyone in the plane, possibly over a populated area. That's definitely a tragedy, and it would inch flying slightly closer to being more dangerous than driving, assuming there are more such uniquely qualified terrorists.

    But if that was going to happen, the tragedy was NOT in failing to react to the wireless network name. It was failing to identify the plot BEFORE it reached the plane... because if the only reason we avoided a terror incident was because of the name of a wireless network, then that's a failure rather than a success.

    I really don't think it's in any way a tough call.

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