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Why Are Cell Phones Banned On Flights?

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As most people know, cell phones are a big no-no during landing and takeoff. What most people don't know, however, is why.

The FAA says cell phones to be "radio transmitting devices" that could possibly disrupt the avionics of the plane. Interesting that they don't call pacemakers transmitting devices, though. In 2007, the ABC news show 20/20, along with veteran airline pilot John Nance, conducted research disputing the FAA's stand. Nance stated: "There's little reason to worry about cell phones interfering with an airplane's navigational equipment," and went on to say airliners electronic systems are "heavily shielded" against stray radio or electronic signals.

Opponents claim that while one or two devices may not break an avionic shield, a lot of them could interfere with communication between the pilot and ground control--communication that's especially critical during takeoff and landing. In the case of emergency, jammed communication with the tower could cause disaster.

So who's right?

Well, according to the MythBusters, it's generally safe to use a cell on a plane. They did some similar debunking. However, because there are so many different types of devices and ways the phones can malfunction, there's no way to test every single cell phone that's been made. 20/20 determined that the primary reason for the ban on cell phone is that neither the FAA or the FCC are willing to spend the money to perform conclusive safety tests. Mmmm, okay.

According to Wiki: "Virtually every pilot headset sold on the market today comes with a cell phone adapter so that the pilot can use his cell phone." While airlines claim that pilots never use their cell phones mid-flight, we're not completely convinced.

pilotphoneat_Other research indicates that AT&T suggested in-flight mobile phone restrictions should remain in place in the interest of reducing the nuisance to other passengers caused by in-flight cell phone conversations "“ again, not at all a safety issue.

Some skeptics have posited the idea that the cell phone ban exists to spur use of the airline's built-in phones, phones that charge a significant fee. There's also some research stating that mobile phones are not all that reliable in the air in the first place, since they're not designed to switch from cell tower to cell tower at the speed of an airplane.

Interestingly enough, the FAA gives the pilot of each aircraft the right to grant the use of cell phones mid-flight. So hey, maybe next time you should buy your pilot a cup of coffee at the terminal. Who knows, they might grant your cell phone an exception.

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Use Wi-Fi? Your Device Is at Risk in the Latest Security Breach
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Another day, another way our personal data is being compromised. This time, the latest threat to your credit card numbers, social security information, and other personal data comes from a more-than-ubiquitous source: your Wi-Fi.

As Ars Technica and The Independent report, a computer security researcher has discovered a major issue with Wi-Fi that can be used to decrypt your data. The vulnerability is the result of weakness in the WPA2 protocol that secures modern Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can steal sensitive data that has been decrypted a method called KRACK, or Key Reinstallation Attacks. While we can't know yet if hackers have actually taken advantage of the vulnerability, its existence puts every Wi-Fi-enabled device at risk.

“If your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected,” Mathy Vanhoef, the Belgium-based researcher who discovered the exploit, said. That means your phone, your computer, and even your Wi-Fi light bulbs. The hacker only needs to be within range of your Wi-Fi—not logged into your network—to take advantage of it and steal your data. However, Ars Technica reports that Android and Linux users are more vulnerable to severe attacks than Windows or iOS users.

What should I do to protect myself?

Unfortunately, changing your passwords won’t help this time around. All you can do is wait for security updates for your devices. In the meantime, treat every Wi-Fi connection like it’s the public network at Starbucks. As in, don’t go sharing all your personal data. You can make yourself safer by using a VPN. According to cybersecurity expert Robert Graham, these kind of attacks can’t defeat VPNs.

Most companies will no doubt be releasing security patches to fix this issue ASAP, so keep a look out for any available updates.

[h/t The Independent]

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Dubai Plans to Outfit Police Force With Hoverbikes
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Hoversurf

Dubai is home to plenty of flashy fashion and architecture, and it has over-the-top police gear to match. The department already is outfitted with some of the fastest cars on the streets, including a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Now, Autoblog reports that police officers in the United Arab Emirates city are getting hoverbikes to access hard-to-reach places.

The bikes, which were developed by the Russian startup Hoversurf, debuted in early October at the Gulf Information Technology Exposition (GITEX) in Dubai. Like Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 hoverbike, the police version is battery-powered and uses propellers at each corner to float like a drone. The newly-released model can reach maximum altitudes of 16 feet and move at speeds of up to 43 mph. Though the quadcopter can only carry one passenger at a time, it can withstand weights of up to 660 pounds. A fully charged battery is enough to fuel a 25-minute ride.

The futuristic addition to the force’s fleet of vehicles isn’t designed for chasing bad guys. Rather, the city hopes to use it to reach out-of-the-way spots during emergencies. If there’s a car wreck at the end of a traffic jam, for example, the Scorpion hoverbike could simply fly over the congestion and reach the scene faster than the department could with cars on the ground.

While cities around the world are still figuring out how low-flying drones and vehicles fit into pedestrian areas, Dubai has been quick to embrace the technology. In 2015, the city invested in jetpacks for first responders. While it's still unclear when the gadgets will be used in an official capacity, the CEO of Hoversurf has confirmed that mass production of the bikes is already underway.

[h/t Autoblog]

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