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Cyber guru ‘can hack cockpit via inflight entertainment’

August 6, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A noted cyber-security expert (or researcher or hacker, depending on viewpoint) claims he can hack into passenger aircraft satellite communications equipment through a plane’s WiFi and/or inflight entertainment system (IFE).

If verified, any such capability would represent a major security loophole, prompting an urgent review.

The claim, by communications researcher Ruben Santamarta, was reported by numerous tech sites yesterday, as well as by Reuters and other wire

Santamarta is a consultant with cybersecurity firm IOActive. He says he is ready to deliver technical details of his research at the current Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas. Black Hat, now in its 17th year, is an annual convention for hackers and security experts. They gather to exchange latest info on cyber threats and countermeasures.

Santamarta’s presentation this Thursday on vulnerabilities in the satellite communications systems used in aviation, aerospace and other industries has generated much chatter among the tech community. It’s expected to be one of the most widely watched expositions at the conference.

Santamarta says the firmware used in satellite communications equipment made by major manufacturers like Cobham, Harris, Hughes, Iridium and Japan Radio Co are all potentially vulnerable.

His theory is that a hacker could use a plane’s inflight entertainment system or WiFi (where available) to hack into its avionics equipment. That in turn could allow someone (perhaps a fanatic or evildoer) to interfere with the aircraft’s navigation and safety systems.

If Santamarta proves it in Las Vegas tomorrow, the world is likely to thank him. Better to find out such things in advance, and fix them, rather than to let the technology fall into the wrong hands.

Written by : Peter Needham

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