Air travel – especially long flights – can bring out the best or worst in people. Being cooped up in your seat for hours and hours on end can leave you bored and easily annoyed. Parents with young kids in tow are even more stressed out as traveling on a plane with toddlers, for instance, is a likely recipe for disaster. Fortunately, electronic gadgets like tablets and computers make air travel a little bit bearable for most of us. It can keep both the young and the old entertained as our destination gets nearer.
The most recent electronics airline ban (refers to any electronic gadget that is bigger than the usual smartphone device) requires travelers from eight North African and Middle Eastern countries to check in their electronic devices during travel to the United States. And just a couple days ago, the U.K. also imposed the same security measures.
The United States announced a new rule that bans bigger-than-a-smartphone electronics from the airline cabin on certain flights to the United States including laptops, tablets and cameras. The rules apply to flights from 10 airports in 8 Middle Eastern and North African countries. The government has attributed the new security measure to concerns about bombs. The U.K. took a similar step Tuesday.
However, constant threats from terrorist groups like the ISIS never cease. And as such, authorities take measures to ensure the safety and security of everyone and stop them from executing their terroristic activities or gaining access to our country.
New rules banning many electronic items from passenger cabins on U.S.-bound flights will force a rethink now on fire safety concerns in consigning them to the hold, and some experts question whether the limited ban can improve passenger security.
The regulations shed light on a juggling act between airline safety, where authorities worry about technical risks such as lithium-powered goods catching fire in the hold, and security measures against damage or loss of life by deliberate attacks.
The rules, announced on Tuesday, cover carry-on electronic devices on planes flying from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Trump administration said passengers traveling from those airports could not bring devices larger than a cellphone, such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras, into the main cabin. Instead, they must be in checked baggage.
The clampdown was prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets, U.S. officials said.
The intention may be good but many question the means it is being enforced as these devices can get lost, damaged or broken during in-flight travel when previous protocol required passengers to keep their valuables with them (including any form of electronics) upon check-in.
It could break or be lost
Even airlines don’t want you putting pricey electronics in your check-in luggage. Once a bag is checked, it’s tossed around between conveyor belts, trucks and planes. One bad hit could do serious damage.
Many airlines specifically say they will not be held liable if these types of items break or are lost. They warn against packing valuable or breakable items like computers in checked baggage. For example, United says not to check “computer hardware/software and electronic components/equipment.”
It could get hacked
As soon as you let your computer or tablet out of your sight, it’s vulnerable to hacks.
“Any time your laptop leaves your possession, all bets are off. Malware and spyware can be installed,” said Rene Kolga, head of product of ThinAir.
Checked-bags go through an x-ray machine, but TSA employees are also allowed to open up any bag and examine its contents. Bags containing laptops and other electronic equipment are often inspected by hand. The airlines are usually looking for bombs or other dangerous items. It is possible for an individual to tamper with your device without you ever knowing it.
Someone can get data off your computer “in seconds” by using a malicious USB device, according to Kolga.
“Most likely the device will be treated with a keylogger or other kind of implant that will help locate the device (and its holder) at a later stage, enable remote access or at least enable them to monitor device usage,” said Erka Koivunen, chief information security officer at F-Secure.
While there is little we can do to stop authorities from taking drastic security measures like this one, we can temporarily put our travels to these countries on hold or take measures to protect your laptop before checking in.
Make sure your device is turned off and is set with a passcode or a finger lock so that others can’t easily access it. Or better yet, remove all important files in your laptop and store it on a handy flash drive or in the cloud so nothing gets stolen en route back to America. For now, let us all cooperate with the government and protect our country from terrorists who wants nothing but to disrupt law and order in our progressive society.