Be on the wave or under it™
The News – 09/21/01
On Planes As A Solution?
What’s Wrong With This Picture? I don’t know about you,
but I worry about recent statements recommending that Federal marshals with
guns be stationed on airplanes. I always assumed that the risk of catastrophic
decompression or other really bad outcome due to discharging a firearm on a
plane was quite high.
the site, KeepAndBearArms.com (now, let’s consider the source here), it ain’t
necessarily so. First of all, you could use pre-fragmented “safety slugs” designed
not to penetrate walls or ricochet from hard surfaces. Great. But even if you
put a hole or two in the side of the fuselage, you could plug it with an
airplane pillow, according to the site, which quotes a couple of
self-identified aircraft engineers on the subject. They say the risk of a
single bullet causing massive structural failure of these “bulldozers in the
sky” is very slim. Of course, they don’t worry too much about what would happen
if the bullet happened to shoot out a window or penetrate the fuel tanks in the
wings. One of the “engineers” says that he “read someplace” that a 747 could
keep flying with four windows blown out. Of course, several passengers might
get “extruded” in the process, but I guess you should learn to accept that kind
of collateral damage. Anyway, the site seems to be advocating that normal folks
be able to fly while armed, arguing, “Concealed carry permit holders are among
the most lawful people in our society.” OK, now I’m really scared.
Let’s not take leave of our senses here, folks. It’s OK with me if you’re a gun
advocate. But get a clue: Arming all air passengers would arm the stinking
bad guys, too! Hello? All a terrorist has to do in this scenario is get a
conceal carry permit, perhaps with stolen credentials. The idea of arming
passengers is looney, and typical of the type of knee jerk overreaction we’ve
heard a lot of since the disaster. Never one to be outdone in the knee jerk
category, our Congress has proposed a bill named H.R. 2896 --
Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 that would allow pilots to be armed. Now I
feel safer. Let’s see. Who was it that brought down EgyptAir 990 into Long
Island Sound? Could it have been the pilot?
Don’t get me
wrong. I’d much rather have pilots armed than passengers, but, let’s face it: Pilots
are not immune to mental illness, marital problems, depression, bigotry, hatred,
or other antisocial behaviors. Some have even flown drunk. Nevertheless,
we do entrust them with our lives, and the vast majority of the time they come
through. I’m not saying pilots shouldn’t have the ability to respond to a
hijacking situation, but placing a very dangerous weapon in their hands (one
that can be stolen and used against them) while they are dealing with flying
the plane and keeping the crew and passengers calm may not be the smartest
thing. Has anyone ever heard of sub-lethal weapons, for
crying out loud? Please write
Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who sponsored the bill, and
express your feelings. I’d like to suggest that it be amended to allow the
carrying of sub-lethal weapons designed to protect against a terrorist attack.
While we’re on
the subject of preventing skyjacking, wouldn’t it make more sense if, instead
of the primitive tech of a bullet, we used the modern technology called
fly-by-wire (FBW)? Modern passenger jets such as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing
777 (as well as many modern fighter jets) utilize FBW technology. What it means
is the plane’s controls are not mechanically connected to the control surfaces
of the plane, and all pilot actions can be modified by computers. In the case
of the Airbus,
hard limits are placed on what the pilot can ask the plane to do. If the pilot
tries to take an action that would make the plane stall or crash into a
building, for example, computers override the action and attempt to carry it out
within acceptable limits of control. Boeing allows the pilot to override
the computer, believing that the human has a better grasp on the situation.
Well, what if there was a ground override that would enable airline officials
to cause the plane to land and not respond to cockpit inputs? Or perhaps just
programming a building avoidance routine would do the trick. Wouldn’t that take
care of the hijacking problem?
Of course, such
as system would need to be completely hacker-proof or it could be neutralized or
co-opted by terrorists or antisocial script kiddies. Despite my misgivings
about the security of secure systems, I for one would feel much more
comfortable with such a system than with guns on board. Of course, having said
that, the folks at KeepAndBearArms.com might want to put my picture in their rogues’
gallery of gun opponents, right next to Stalin and Hitler.
Self-Promotion Dept.: CFO Magazine quoted me for a story they ran on the SirCam worm and
peer-to-peer networks. Like most media contacts, I said a great many
brilliant, insightful, impactful things, but they only used two quotes.
It’s online now, but I don’t think it gets into print until next month.
- Vigilante Crackers
Warned: A loose
knit-group of hackers known as the “Dispatchers” vowed shortly following
last week's terrorist attacks to damage and destroy Internet service
providers, Web sites and networks operated by terrorist organizations. The
Dispatchers said that they would target ISPs in Palestine, Afghanistan and
other countries that support terrorism. The FBI doesn’t think this is such
a good idea. “There is the opportunity for significant collateral damage
to any computer network and telecommunications infrastructure that does
not have current countermeasures in place,” the FBI's National
Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) said. “The Dispatchers claim to
have over 1,000 machines under their control for the attacks. It is likely
that the attackers will mask their operations by using the (Internet
protocol) addresses and pirated systems of uninvolved third parties.” This
type of attack might work against a country, but is likely to be a mere
annoyance to terrorist groups, who can switch providers or adopt
alternative means of access. Unless hackers take down all ISPs in the
target countries, very little good is likely to come from such an exploit.
Cracked: A cracker with the handle RyDen defaced the Afghan Taleban
Mission to the UN website, taleban.com. The site is now down, but as of
last Sunday it read: “Own3d by RyDen.” The site was apparently first
defaced in March and this is the third time in six months that RyDen has attacked
the Taleban site.
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