Connected Planes and Mile-High Problems


Aviation technology has come a long way since Orville and Wilbur Wright first took flight on Dec. 17, 1903. Now—in addition to being able to cross vast oceans and continents nonstop—aircraft are becoming increasingly connected and Internet-centric, allowing travelers to enjoy in-flight entertainment and shopping opportunities while circling the globe. 

That increased connectivity, though, could introduce threats to information security.

Last year, a report from the Government Accountability Office found that, as the Federal Aviation Administration transitions to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), it faces cybersecurity challenges in many areas, including protecting air-traffic control information systems and aircraft avionics. The report also found that connection to the Internet could potentially result in unauthorized remote access to aircraft systems.

It seems the FAA noticed—and is trying to do something about it.

In a March 1 post on a federal contracting website, the agency called for researchers to help explore Aircraft Systems Information Security/Protection (ASISP) concerns. The research will look into external networks and systems—including airport gate links, flight information databases and aircraft software uploads—which, if exploited, could compromise aircraft safety.

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