Passengers using Wi-Fi aboard a plane could potentially hack their way into the aircraft controls, a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has warned.
The report, released this week, details the advice of four security experts that if an aircraft Wi-Fi system “shares the same wiring harness or router as the plane’s avionics system” a passenger could potentially hack their way through to access the avionics system that guides and controls the aircraft.
As GAO puts it: “Modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the internet. This interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorised remote access to aircraft avionics systems.”
While the disclosures sound nightmarish, a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official told GAO that extra security measures aboard the plane could defend the system from such attacks.
Two new aircraft types employing the latest fly-by-wire technology – the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 – already have special conditions attached to their certification to prevent unauthorised access to their guidance computers, according to USA Today.
A report in that paper quoted Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the US House of Representatives Transportation Committee, saying it was imperative that the FAA ensure aircraft certification standards prevent “a terrorist with a laptop in the cabin or on the ground from taking control of an airplane through the passenger Wi-Fi system”.
DeFazio said the report “exposed a real and serious threat”.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper has drawn attention to another threat, exposed by GAO in a separate report last year: namely that somebody might hack their way into the enormous network of computer and communications systems the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses to track and monitor flights around the world. The FAA relies on more than 100 such systems.
Written by : Peter Needham