How Easy is It to Hack In-Flight Airplanes?

Pilot flying a plane

Imagine a pilot losing control of an in-flight plane just because someone from the ground tinkered with the aircraft’s digital system; a cybersecurity expert said it’s possible.

Ruben Santamarta said this scenario depicted in the movies could happen in real life. He plans to expose the weaknesses of satellite communication technology in August when he would also explain how other GPS-dependent transportation modes are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Security Layer

A good multi-element GNSS simulator lets anyone test the security of a device that would use satellite signals. It’s important that private companies and public sector groups carefully evaluate the possibility of a cyber-threat taking place, once cyber-criminals can intercept or hack into the system.

Santamarta believes he can demonstrate how hackers can access a plane’s WiFi network from the ground. His claim used to be a widely unaccepted concept until November 2017, following the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s reconsideration. The agency acknowledged that an attack might happen since its own cyber experts were able to compromise a Boeing 757 commercial plane’s security from a remote location.

Autonomous Safety

Aside from airplanes, hacking can also be dangerous for self-driving vehicles. Manufacturers of autonomous cars can prevent an attack by reviewing designs that “lock down” cars. During this time, the safety protocol limits the risk of threats to the lowest rate required to transport passengers to their destination.

Sensor jamming and spoofing are also common threats to autonomous vehicles, which can restrict a car’s ability to examine the surroundings and follow traffic rules. In other cases, an intercepted communications system can also deliver a warning of a nearby hazard when there’s no clear sign of danger.

It’s safe to assume that the outer space now serves as the next battleground for cybersecurity, which means industries need better security protocols and testing equipment for satellite technology.