The FBI has arrested a man on suspicion of sending a bomb threat through an Apple messaging service. The threat forced American Airlines to evacuate a plane at a New Mexico airport. Now the alleged perpetrator could face years in prison.
On October 2, 2022, American Airlines Flight 928 from Dallas, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, was approaching Albuquerque Sunport when passengers started to receive messages on their Apple devices. The messages, sent using Apple’s AirDrop system, claimed there was a bomb on the plane and “You’re all going to die.”
The plane then had to make an emergency landing before being told to taxi to a remote part of the airport. Passengers were then ordered to leave all their belongings behind and evacuate the plane. Passengers said it appeared one man had been arrested.
AirDrop is a short-range messaging app that can be used to send messages and files between iPhones, iPads and Apple Mac computers. It has attracted criticism for its weak privacy, as the devices “handshake” before a message is sent. That is, they exchange encrypted details, including phone numbers.
There have also been several incidents where AirDrop has been used to send fake messages on airliners. In 2022 at least three other flights — one in Florida, one in Italy and one in Turkey — were delayed when passengers sent threatening messages using AirDrop. In two other incidents, passengers on US flights used AirDrop to send sexually explicit photos to other passengers.