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Book Review: Hijacking: Violence in the Skies

Violence in the Skies. By Philip Baum. Summersdale; available from; 320 pages; $14.95

A captivating read, Violence in the Skies is a fascinating history of aviation hijackings over the last century. Two recurring themes put forward by author Philip Baum are that there are many significant aviation incidents that don’t make it to mainstream news, and that many hijackers don’t serve extended jail sentences. 

The book provides stories from a wide range of worldwide hijackings and security incidents. The bulk of them are politically based, but there are quite a few where mentally unstable and disturbed people have brought terror to the skies.

Baum writes that the last successful hijacking—of an El Al flight—took place in 1968. While the Israeli airline has experienced many attempts since, none have been successful. This is because Israel’s aviation security system is the gold standard, and it has an effective counterterrorist response. Much of the approach—counter to that of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration—relies on trying to find the bomber, not the bomb.

When it comes to information security, the insider threat is often ignored. The book describes cases, such as the Chechen Black Widows hijackings, where insiders facilitated the hijackings by terrorists. 

Although hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on aviation security over the past decade, the book notes that there’s no indication that the threat to aviation is in any way diminishing. The events of the post-9/11 era have clearly demonstrated that while the frequency of attacks may not be as high, the impact and death tolls can be monumental. 

Reading about aviation violence is not pleasant, but this book is an indispensable read for anyone who wants to understand this history of aviation attacks. Baum, who is editor-in-chief of Aviation Security International, is an expert in the field and brings that to every chapter in this appealing book. ​​

Reviewer: Ben Rothke, CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), PCI QSA (Qualified Security Assessor), is a principal eGRC consultant with the Nettitude Group.