Since Sept. 11, 2001, the airline industry has been one of the fastest industries to upgrade their security procedures and protocols against various threats. Threats from possible terrorist bombs and improvised explosive devices have been restrained, but the hacking attack can’t be controlled as it doesn’t required hackers to board an airplane to gain control of the systems set in place to control it.
Cyber security breaches can be devastating when it comes to airline security. It can cause financial loss, reputation loss, and most importantly the loss of human life. Hacking into an airline system is not a person who is seeking financial gain, but it’s something that could be utilized for warfare.
In the United States, the number of airport security breaches since 2011 has gone down significantly, which would make the case that inter-agency cooperation and the changes implemented in aviation IT security have been working, but what has worked in the past and what works today does not promise a tomorrow.
“A cyber attack which is successful against air traffic control systems would be absolutely devastating and could easily result in the loss of lives” Athan Wenzler, principal security architect at AsTech Consulting.
Along, each new advancement in aviation security, comes new advancements in black hat technologies and techniques. While WI-Fi is being provided in airlines, there are many potential risks originated. More the connected device, there will be in an aircraft, there will be more chances of hacking.
Flight controls rely on analog, Actuator Control Electronics (ACE), and the Primary Flight Computer (PFC), which utilizes digital technology. Fly-By-Wire (FBW) systems rely on electronic computers to communicate with the airplanes hydraulics and move the rudders, wing flaps and elevator; all these systems are extremely difficult to hack without installing a secondary device to access their Local Area Networks.
But, the threats to aviation security systems and airlines from cyber-terrorism and hackers in general are evolving with the implementations of new technologies within their systems. In a statement to the FBI, Robert stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights. The FBI stated in their warrant application.
There are also a lot of concerns around the increased use of in-flight wireless networks, both for internet access and for delivering entertainment to passengers at their seats. In some cases, it’s been discovered that these systems are not isolated from the aircraft’s controls and operation networks, which means a hacker could potentially take control of an aircraft or affect its flight operation.
There is no evident answer for airline security across the board, but restructuring their security operations to deal with perceived threats as new as the growing technologies around us, cross referencing the massive amounts of data on previous cyber attacks, and implementing new technologies after thorough testing and checks is a good start.