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Hacker Says Passenger Jets Vulnerable To Cyber Attack

Giuseppe Macri
Tech Editor

Passenger aircraft could be the latest mode of transportation vulnerable to hacking and cyber attack, according to a cyber-security researcher.

Cyber-security firm IOActive consultant Ruben Santamarta claims to have discovered how to hack into a passenger airliner’s avionics system, which would allow a potential cyber-attacker to interfere with the satellite communications of a plane and disrupt crucial systems like navigation and safety, Reuters reports.

“These devices are wide open,” Santamarta said in the report. “The goal of this talk is to help change that situation.”

The 32-year-old Santamarta said he was able to simulate infiltrating a plane’s systems by hacking in through its WiFi and other passenger services and “reverse engineering” the sensitive systems’ firmware.

Santamarta plans to unveil the in-depth technical aspects of his findings at the Black Hat cyber-security conference currently underway in Las Vegas this week in what is expected to be one of the most-watched presentations this year. If verified, the hacker’s findings could raise serious concerns over the safety of air travel.

The communications equipment in question is manufactured by Cobham Plc, Harris Corp, EchoStar Corp’s Hughes Network Systems, Iridium Communications Inc and Japan Radio Co Ltd. All except Japan radio have reportedly confirmed at least parts of Santamarta’s research, though the researcher admits his hacks have only been successful in a laboratory setting, and could be harder to execute in a live scenario.

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