View Full Version : ADB-B + iPhone - Threat To Security.

3rd Oct 2010, 21:09
Some people have already pointed out this "alternative use" of unencrypted ADS - B.

London: A cheap mobile phone application that can track the precise location of passenger aircraft in the sky can be a serious terrorist threat, security experts have claimed and called for its immediate ban.

The Plane Finder AR application, developed by a British firm for the Apple iPhone and Google's Android, allows users to point their phone at the sky and see the position, height and speed of nearby aircraft.

It also shows the airline, flight number, departure point, destination and even the likely course-the features which could be used to target an aircraft with a surface-to-air missile, or to direct another plane on to a collision course, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

The programme, sold for just 1.79 pounds in the online Apple store, has now been labelled an 'aid to terrorists' by security experts and the US Department of Homeland Security is also examining how to protect airliners.

The new application works by intercepting the so-called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcasts (ADS-B) transmitted by most passenger aircraft to a new satellite tracking system that supplements or, in some countries, replaces radar.

British and European air traffic control systems have not yet adopted the technology but it is being fitted in all new aircraft, which now constantly broadcast their positions.

After the September 11 attacks in America in 2001, a senior Federal Aviation Administration official warned that ADS-B technology could be used by terrorists.

He wrote: "Broadcasting the identity and location of aircraft... would open the door for a terrorist to attack a specific aircraft or airline."

The firm behind the app, Pinkfroot, uses a network of aircraft enthusiasts in Britain and abroad, who are equipped with ADS-B receivers costing around 200 pounds to intercept the information from aircraft and send it to a central

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Parliamentary Counter Terrorism sub-committee, said: "Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness. The Government must look at outlawing the marketing
of such equipment."

However, the Hampshire-based firm has gone one step further, marketing a so-called 'Augmented Reality' application because users can point a phones camera at the sky and see the precise position of aircraft superimposed on the horizon.

The firm claims more than 2,000 people have downloaded Plane Finder AR from iTunes since its launch last month.

A phone application that threatens security (http://www.ndtv.com/article/technology/a-phone-application-that-threatens-security-56673)

Hotel Mode
3rd Oct 2010, 21:15
How exactly is this more dangerous than an airband radio, a handy spot near an ILS centreline and a clear day? Or indeed an airport online arrivals board and some educated guesswork. Scaremongering.

3rd Oct 2010, 21:32
So, if I have a SAM or a rogue plane, I need to rely on an iPhone app for guidance systems....because neither a SAM or a plane have ever been equipped with guidance systems have they? and god forbid ones as pinpoint accurate as within the iPhone.

Given some of the satnav directions i've had from my iPhone, i'd be surprised if the SAM or plane would be directed within 100 miles of target some days.

3rd Oct 2010, 23:44
These dastardly terrorists! Make sure no one tells them about RadarVirtuel.com (http://www.radarvirtuel.com/), Watch Air Traffic - LIVE! (http://www.flightradar24.com/) or any such services.

PS - the original post mentioned the word "unencrypted". Lest there be any doubt, there has almost never been a commercial-strength encryption system that hasn't been hacked (either by breaking the code or, more usually, gaining illegal access to equipment or systems that can decrypt the code). If terrorists were clever enough to make use of ADS-B for malicious purposes, they'd almost certainly be clever enough to break any encryption, get round any bans on the sale of ADS-B equipment and so on.

Sir George Cayley
4th Oct 2010, 21:10
Just remind me. How far does the average ManPad an Islamist terrorist might obtain travel when launched?

Sir George Cayley

V1... Ooops
5th Oct 2010, 00:55
Just how the heck does this business of "...point their phone at the sky and see the position, height and speed of nearby aircraft" work?

I didn't know that Apple iPhones and Google Android phones were equipped to receive the 1090 MHz extended squitter that contains the ADS-B OUT data package.

Steve Jobs must have snuck that capability into the iPhone at the last developer conference and forgot to tell everone. :rolleyes:

5th Oct 2010, 02:01
Easy enough i guess. The mobile device knows where it is and in which direction it is pointed and then simply queries one of the ADS-B services mentioned above over the internet, no need for its own ADS-B receiver.