The inflight entertainment on United Airlines flights may require users to install potentially insecure DRM on their laptops.
Most airlines limit inflight entertainment to seatback devices, but on flights without such devices, or if passengers prefer to use their own devices, United Airlines offers them the ability watch a pre-selected list of movies and TV shows on their laptop.
But to the dismay of tech entrepreneur Brian Fitzpatrick, a passenger on a recent United flight, passengers choosing to use their own laptop has to install a third party DRM plug-in first before they are allowed to watch movies such as "Gone Girl" and "Big Hero 6".
As Techdirt investigates, the Panasonic Marlin DRM plug-in required by United is coded using the NPAPI architecture, support of which was phased out in Google's Chrome browser in 2014 because "NPAPI's 90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity".
In addition, passengers have to install the Flash plugin in order to watch the movie. Recently discovered vulnerabilities in the Flash plugin has forced browser makers to drop default support for the plug-in.
The DRM requirement for the inflight entertainment most likely comes at the behest of Hollywood studios, who insists on the implementation of technical measures to protect their content, regardless of how unlikely it is for passengers on a flight to steal movies via the inflight entertainment system.