Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

A Good Explosive Recipe and other found knowledge online

2009-09-07 13:13:08
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I was reading the news online today and came across an article about the three men charged with conspiring to blow up airlines using liquid explosives. It took over 200 police to bring them in and threw airports into chaos at the height of the vacation season. It also resulted in the liquids restriction that's so annoying for frequent travelers (I haven't used a zip lock bag as a toiletries bag since I was in college, and now I'm forced to abandon my fancy Eddie Bauer bag).

I've always been curious about what liquids they're after -- I mean, they think I could take down a plain with 4 ounces of hair gel? There are some really cheap colognes that can incapacitate, but I don't think that's what they were worried about.

So, I was interested to find out that they had found hydrogen peroxide in the would-be terrorists possession. Then I did a quick search on hydrogen peroxide explosives on google, and the first result was "A Good Explosive Recipe" which gives step by step instructions on how this guy made an explosive in yogurt containers with hydrogen peroxide.

Whether that's the explosive these guys were going to use or not, this is the dark side of my industry -- well, dark side because knowledge is power, and when you have dark people looking to do dark things, it's easy to find out what you want to know on line.

I worry not about the fact that it was so easy for me to find the recipe, I worry that people will jump to the conclusion we should censure the Internet.

It gets back to one of my basic philosophies -- it's not the technology that's the problem.

Think about the fact that the Russians got the plans for the Bomb from people working at Los Alamos, one of the most secure facilities in the world in an era of paranoia and censorship. Heck, Europeans figured out how to use Chinese explosives for gunpowder and next thing you know everyone's got guns before we even had the printing press.

People are clever and will keep figuring things out -- fighting to keep people from knowledge will just slow down the less motivated, and bad guys are generally more motivated than high school students...

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Michael Weinberg: Re: A Good Explosive Recipe and other found knowledge online
2009-09-07 13:38:48

I'd hasten to point out that the recipe that you mention calls for only 1.5 ounces of hydrogen peroxide (9 teaspoons), far less than the TSA limit.

I've also read that while this is a volatile, dangerous explosive, it would be nearly impossible to mix up enough to blow up a plane, particularly while in the lavatory, as you'd probably:

a) pass out from the fumes, before you had a bomb.
b) blow you hands off before you had enough to tear the fuselage apart.

Censoring the Internet due to this recipe would be about as silly as the TSA rules for liquids.

Michael Bissell: Re: Michael Weinberg's comment
2009-09-07 14:08:55

True, the recipe I reference isn't going to cause any real damage; and also true that using this example to censor the Internet would be as silly as the TSA restrictions which is to say it's just as likely.

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