Aircraft Hacking Security Alert Issued By Department Of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a security alert for small planes, warning that modern flight systems are vulnerable to hacking if someone manages to gain physical access to the aircraft.  Engine readings, compass data, altitude and other readings “could all be manipulated to provide false measurements to the pilot,” according to the DHS alert.

The issue, which was discovered by a Boston-based cybersecurity company and reported to the federal government, found that an attacker could potentially disrupt electronic messages transmitted across a small plane’s network.  For example, by attaching a small device to its wiring, that would affect aircraft systems.

This latest warning reflects the fact that aircraft systems are increasingly reliant on networked communications systems, much like modern cars.  But unlike the airline industry, the auto industry has already taken steps to address similar concerns after researchers exposed vulnerabilities.

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Orion Cassetto
Orion Cassetto , Director, Product Marketing,
InfoSec Expert
August 1, 2019 1:14 pm

This latest alert around aircraft cybersecurity should serve as a reminder to the entire aviation industry of the opportunities and challenges presented by modern connectivity.

Every month, there are 1,000 cyberattacks across the air transport industry. At the same time, just 35 percent of airlines and 30 percent of airports believe they are prepared to deal with cyberthreats today. The industry is constantly innovating to stay ahead of the technology curve, but these innovations are actually creating new vulnerabilities.

Customer experience is paramount in an industry as competitive and prone to issues as air travel. To deliver a great experience, airlines are implementing emerging technologies, from mobile apps to mood lighting and entertainment systems. From purchasing a ticket, to using miles to upgrade, to making a connection, more data than ever is being used to protect passenger privacy and keep departures on time.

An area that’s less visible to passengers is the activity monitoring and data collection airlines conduct across a wide range of applications. This information is used to improve operations that impact every stage of the journey.

Machine learning, big data and analytics are all being used to gather data and set a baseline of normal behaviour, which makes threats and anomalous behaviour easier and faster to identify. Systems that can detect and escalate unusual patterns and help pinpoint event timelines provide deep insight on security events that may be the source of the anomalies. Gaining access to that insight before something happens is critical because it allows officials to stop problems before they start.

Last edited 3 years ago by Orion Cassetto
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