How can you shutdown an airline service? By setting your Wi-Fi hotspot’s Service Set Identifier (SSID) to something quippy:
According to The West Australian, a passenger on QF481 spotted a Wi-Fi hotspot titled “Mobile Detonation Device” and advised a crew member. It wasn’t clear what mobile device it was linked to or where the device was located.
The crew member informed the captain, who then broadcast a message to passengers. Passenger John Vidler told the publication the pilot said the device needed to be located before the flight could depart.
If somebody put a bomb on board would they use Wi-Fi to detonate it? Probably not. That would require being in close proximity to the device whereas a cellular device, which are commonly used as remote detonators, allow the perpetrator to be somewhere else in the world. If a bomber did use a Wi-Fi detonator would they set it to broadcast an SSID that indicated it was a detonator? Most likely not. That would increase the chances of the device being discovered before it could be detonated. Holding the flight until the device was located was an overreaction.
In addition to being an overreaction it also gives individuals interested in interfering with airline service a cheap and effective means of accomplishing their goals. With little more than a Wi-Fi access point you can perform a denial of service attack against an airplane.