Report: Hackers Could Use Plane WiFi to Hijack Controls

FAA says it is working with experts on necessary changes
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2015 2:49 PM CDT
In this May 9, 2014, file photo, American Airlines pilots Bill Elder, left, and Jim Dees work inside a Boeing 787 flight simulator in Fort Worth, Texas.   (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
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(Newser) – That in-flight WiFi we've all become so fond of could be breached by hackers to take control of the plane, according to a worrying GAO report out yesterday. Passengers, or even people on the ground, could break down firewalls guarding communications and navigation systems, Reuters reports, meaning a hacker with just a laptop could potentially cause a crash. Modern planes, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 and A380, are all vulnerable as their cockpits are wired into the passenger WiFi system, CNN reports. Based on testimony from cybersecurity and aviation experts, the report adds a hacker could also access a plane's computers via a physical link, like a USB plug.

While planes more than 20 years old are less at risk, "Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors," the report states. Rep. Peter DeFazio of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which requested the report, says it "exposed a real and serious threat—cyberattacks on an aircraft in flight." It isn't clear if the GAO conducted tests of scenarios. The office is now pressing the FAA to address the vulnerability, and a rep says "the FAA had already initiated a comprehensive program to improve the cybersecurity defenses of the NAS (National Airspace System) infrastructure." (Read more airplanes stories.)

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