from the January 2008 issue

Israel launches anti-hijack pilot identification system

Israeli authorities plan to issue a new anti-hijack identification system to incoming aircraft which they say is foolproof, but some experts are not convinced it will plug all the security holes on the horizon.

Starting next year, Israel will require pilots who fly to its airports to use the Security Code System (SCS), a local invention designed to ensure planes that have been commandeered for al Qaeda-style attacks are spotted in time.

Israel plans a trial run for the system, using a credit card-sized keypad, next month, in cooperation with five airlines from the United States, Europe and Africa. About 10,000 of the units will ultimately be issued, with Israel bearing the cost.

Pilots who fail the authentication test when they approach Israeli airspace will be denied entry. Should a plane go ahead, ignoring further warnings, Israel will consider it hostile and scramble fighter planes for an interception.

In the worst case, that could mean an aircraft is shot down.

"You can't bluff this system," Dani Shenar, chief of security for Transportation Ministry, said.

"It provides a higher level of confidence that the aircraft is being controlled by the right people, which is a huge asset in terms of avoiding unnecessary security alerts."

He said the system knows how to differentiate between "a classic hostage-taking hijacking and a 9/11-style hijacking." Shenar and the company that developed SCS, Elbit Systems, declined on security grounds to give details of the technology and procedures involved.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report January 2008

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