View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you

Can commercial aircraft communications be hacked?

Flaws were detected by decoding the firmware used to operate satellite communications equipment for military and civilian aircraft.

By CBR Staff Writer

The Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment systems in commercial aircraft could leave their satellite communications equipment vulnerable to cyber attacks, claims a security expert.

IOActive cybersecurity researcher Ruben Santamarta claimed that he can modify or disrupt satellite communications, eventually interfering with the aircraft’s navigation and safety systems by hacking the aircraft’s integrated avionics.

Santamarta told Reuters: "These devices are wide open. The goal of this talk is to help change that situation.

"In theory, a hacker could use a plane’s onboard wi-fi signal or inflight entertainment system to hack into its avionics equipment, potentially disrupting or modifying satellite communications, which could interfere with the aircraft’s navigation and safety systems."

Santamarta was successfully able to detect flaws by decoding ‘Firmware’ used to operate satellite communications equipment for military and civilian aircraft built by Cobham, Harris, EchoStar’s Hughes Network Systems, Iridium Communications and Japan Radio.

Confirming some of his findings, representatives for Cobham, Harris, Hughes and Iridium, however, downplayed the threats discovered by Santamarta.

Cobham spokesperson said: "In the aviation and maritime markets we serve, there are strict requirements restricting such access to authorized personnel only."

Content from our partners
Rethinking cloud: challenging assumptions, learning lessons
DTX Manchester welcomes leading tech talent from across the region and beyond
The hidden complexities of deploying AI in your business

Santamarta added: "The findings of IOActive’s research should serve as an initial wakeup call for both the vendors and users of the current generation of SATCOM technology."

More details about the findings will be revealed at the upcoming Black Hat hacking conference in Las Vegas.

Websites in our network
Select and enter your corporate email address Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
  • CIO
  • CTO
  • CISO
  • CSO
  • CFO
  • CDO
  • CEO
  • Architect Founder
  • MD
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Other
Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.