Hacking the Boeing 787
The news articles are pretty sensational:
The computer network in the Dreamliner's passenger compartment, designed to give passengers in-flight internet access, is connected to the plane's control, navigation and communication systems, an FAA report reveals.
According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aeroplane may have a serious security vulnerability in its on-board computer networks that could allow passengers to access the plane's control systems.
If this is true, this is a very serious security vulnerability. And it's not just terrorists trying to control the airplane, but the more common software flaw that causes some unforeseen interaction with something else and cascades into a bigger problem. However, the FAA document in the Federal Register is not as clear as all that. It does say:
The proposed architecture of the 787 is different from that of existing production (and retrofitted) airplanes. It allows new kinds of passenger connectivity to previously isolated data networks connected to systems that perform functions required for the safe operation of the airplane. Because of this new passenger connectivity, the proposed data network design and integration may result in security vulnerabilities from intentional or unintentional corruption of data and systems critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane. The existing regulations and guidance material did not anticipate this type of system architecture or electronic access to aircraft systems that provide flight critical functions. Furthermore, 14 CFR regulations and current system safety assessment policy and techniques do not address potential security vulnerabilities that could be caused by unauthorized access to aircraft data buses and servers. Therefore, special conditions are imposed to ensure that security, integrity, and availability of the aircraft systems and data networks are not compromised by certain wired or wireless electronic connections between airplane data buses and networks.
But, honestly, this isn't nearly enough information to work with. Normally, the aviation industry is really good about this sort of thing, and it doesn't make sense that they'd do something as risky as this. I'd like more definitive information.
EDITED TO ADD (1/16): The FAA responds. Seems like there's more hype than story here. Still, it's worth paying attention to.
Posted on January 7, 2008 at 12:38 PM • 55 Comments