Experts weigh in on recent spate of bomb threats on Canadian flights
WATCH ABOVE: Investigators are looking for mystery callers after the latest bomb threat against an airline in Canada turned up nothing. Marianne Dimain reports.
TORONTO — Nerves were frayed amongst WestJet passengers at Pearson Airport after hearing a fourth flight from the same airline was the target of a bomb threat in just five days.
“I’m afraid of flying to begin with so if there’s a bomb threat I’m not getting on that plane,” said one woman standing beside her luggage, who declined to give her name.
Another man getting ready to fly out called the incidents “upsetting.”
The latest bomb threat was Wednesday night, after officials received a call that an explosive device was onboard a Toronto-bound flight from Vancouver.
The plane was diverted and landed in Calgary as a precaution. As was the case with the previous threats, no bomb was found and officials deemed it a hoax.
“This is very serious, making bomb threats against airlines,” said crime specialist and security expert Ross McLean, who added this could be the work of young pranksters.
“This is very much like we’re seeing swatting now,” said McLean. “You’ll be tied to it, and with the airlines, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came after you civilly.”
Making a bomb threat is a serious offence that could be punishable by jail time. It also prompts a pricey response from police and investigators from different jurisdictions and agencies, plus tens of thousands of dollars in fuel just to divert a plane.
It’s not clear whether the threats on all four WestJet flights are linked, or whether they were made by the same person or group. But with modern technology, there are ways police can track down the source of the calls.
“If they’re being phoned in, on what phone? If there’s a spoofing mechanism that’s being used how do they break through that spoofing to find out the real phone not the fake phone,” said independent Technology Analyst Carmi Levy. “If an online service is being used what IP address is it coming from?”
WATCH: Five threats to aircrafts in the last week have created chaos for passengers and crews, and many are hoping whoever is responsible will be caught. Heather Yourex updates the investigation.
There are many tools suspects could use to try to evade authorities but Levy says investigators can uncover strong leads in just a matter of days, sometimes just a few hours.
In a statement, WestJet said it is working with authorities and that its customers safety is its top priority.
Aviation expert Bryce Fisher says repeated bomb threats against an airline are rare`, but there is protocol that is followed when a call does come in. The missing piece of the puzzle is who is making the calls and why.
“It could be a prank, it could be a vendetta, it could be a disgruntled passengers or a former passenger,” said Fisher. “It could be a disgruntled customer, it really runs the gamut.”
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