Can Modern Jetliners Be Hacked?


Is it possible for hackers to break into the control systems of airliners in flight?

Aviation experts are skeptical, but APTN reports that one hacker claims to have done that.

If there is any truth to the story, it raises significant implications even beyond the memories of what occurred on 9/11.

A U.S. federal court document posted by APTN indicates that the FBI has seized computer equipment owned by outspoken hacker Chris Roberts, and filed for a search warrant to examine the devices.

Is Roberts seeking publicity?  No doubt.

How vulnerable are the flight systems on commercial airliners?

APTN says the hacker claims he was able to change the throttle settings on one of the jet’s engines and monitor traffic (presumably data) from the cockpit system.

If any of this is true, why is this guy not behind bars?

Read more here.

Reader comments are welcomed (below).

It’s unclear whether Roberts used WiFi or a physical Ethernet cable to perform his hack. The APTN story says that a box near the hacker’s seat had been opened and tampered with.  Does this mean that airliners have network ports that can be accessed by passengers?

It’s a good thing that the TSA confiscated Roberts’ dangerous 6 oz. toothpaste tube before he boarded the flight.

Contributed by Chet Hughes.

2 Comments on "Can Modern Jetliners Be Hacked?"

  1. Given that hackers can get into the Pentagon, NATO, NORAD, etc., it seems improbable that a dedicated hacker could NOT break into a plane’s controls in flight sometime soon. Given the focus on automated cockpits (and the ability to land a 747 without human aid these days), combined with drone technology, it seems inevitable. And the more we try to bolster electronic security on airplanes, those systems will inherently become more complex, and therefore more unstable. A real conundrum…

  2. One difference is, assuming that they survive and are detected, hackers sitting in an airline seat are trapped neatly inside a tin can for easy apprehension. And if the APTN article is true and there are Ethernet ports at each seat, perhaps they can be traced right down the the actual seat. The guys who hack the Pentagon do that from a distance, and are somewhat harder to catch.

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